From Mallarme to Mallet Stevens: Reading Architectural Space in Man Ray's Les Mysteres du Chateau du De

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Abstract

In 1928 the wealthy aristocrat and patron of the arts Comte Charles de Noailles commissioned Man Ray to make a film about his villa in the south of France. The cubist forms of the villa, designed by the architect and set designer Robert Mallet-Stevens, made Man Ray think of Stéphane Mallarmé's modernist poem Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (1897). The title of the poem would, in Man Ray's words, ‘become the theme of the film’, reflected in its own title Les Mystères du château du dé (1929). Existing analyses of the relationship between the two works tend to focus on the semi-narrative content of the film and its series of poetic intertitles, bypassing more complex formal connections. This article argues that Mallarmé's poem can be used as a starting point for the exploration of formal and conceptual patterns in the film. It concentrates particularly on Man Ray's attention to space in Mallet-Stevens's architectural design, and argues that the reading of space reflects Mallarmé's emphasis on the ‘blancs’ in Un coup de dés.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-470
Number of pages12
JournalFrench Studies
Volume65
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2011

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