After a couple of years of good intentions, I finally found a chance to sit down for a private screening with my friend, the poet and filmmaker Julian Semilian. An emigree from Roumania, Julian has made several reputations for himself over the last four decades. He was a successful Hollywood film editor for 24 years. He is one of this country’s foremost translators of Roumanian poetry, and a fascinating poet as well. Now he devotes his time to teaching, writing and making avant-garde films.
Julian had a 36-minute film he wanted to share with me called Devotees of the Precipitate. It tells the fantastical story of the artist that Man Ray left behind when he changed his name from Emmanuel Radnitsky to avoid persecution in pre-WWI Brooklyn. Julian calls this artist Emuel Dnitsk (using the letters Man Ray deleted), and makes him the inventor of imaginary peintures fluides, or moving paintings. The film realizes these floating images from notes and journals Dnitsk left in a trunk. The entire work is a fascinating study of otherness, of abandoned identity, with gorgeous images folding one into another, all from a 1920s surrealist perspective.
After seeing this film, I think Julian and I will find some project or projects to collaborate on – and I’m guessing it won’t take a couple of years this time.