Linda William's article reviews Steven Kovàcs's book From Enchantment to Rage: The Story of Surrealist Cinema and offers a method of examining the history of Surrealist cinema, namely “a return to the history of Surrealism proper: how the Surrealist poets and artists in the main phase of the movement (1923-1930) turned their talent and energy to film; how their painting, photography, and poetry found new forms of expression in this emerging art; the development of this new aesthetics of film from the 'enchantment' of the early twenties to the 'rage' typified by the 1930 L'Age d'or" (Williams 41). William's chastises Kovàcs's lack of significant analysis of the role of dreams in Surrealist film, an element she views as extremely important to understanding the goals of the movement. To illustrate this point, she takes the example of Kovàcs's examination of Dalí and Buñuel: "the issue points out a problem in the book's general approach: an assessment of Surrealist cinema is not a question of sorting out individual personalities and their contributions. If Surrealism deserves its 'ism' then there is something more to Buñuel and Dalí's collaboration than the fortuitous encounter of two individual psychic obsessions. To my mind that something is to be found in the formal procedures of the unconscious which Buñuel and Dalí so brilliantly adapted to the creation of their films" (Williams 42).
Williams's review offers two important tools for the examination of The Seashell and the Clergyman: first, she argues that an examination of the history of Surrealist film should focus on how Surrealist artists turned their ideas into film and how film enabled a method of expression unavailable in other art forms; and second, she highlights the importance of dreams, their structure, and their natural functioning and the role they played in the making of Surrealist films. The first tool lends more analysis to Flitterman-Lewis's examination of Artaud's paradoxical claim that The Seashell and the Clergyman was the first surrealist film despite his insistence that Dulac failed to recreate more than the material appearance of construction of dreams, without expressing an experience of dreaming. William's method of analysis would factor in the exclusion of Artaud from the artistic direction of the film, separating Artaud from the ability to express through film and leaving it entirely up to Dulac. To resolve this seeming paradox, the only logical conclusion must be that Artaud found the film to be an adequate Surrealist expression of the dream, though it was not an interpretation true to his understanding and visualization of the scenario. Williams places the “main phase” of the movement within the period 1923-30, ending just after The Seashell and the Clergyman and Un chien andalou were made, thus reinforcing Flitterman-Lewis's agument that Dulac and Artaud's film was the first Surrealist film due to the amount in terms of technique and means of expression that later movies would borrow from it.
Williams, Linda. "From Enchantment to Rage: The Story of Surrealist Cinema." Film Quarterly 34 (1981): 41-42.