Retour à la raison (1923) is a short avant-garde film made by Man Ray, American Dadaist –later Surrealist - photographer and painter. This 2-minute piece is the spirit of spontaneity and chance in cinema. A manifestation of the importance of “texture” in conveying the total feelings of a motion picture. Attacking the logic and rational order by using dissimilarity between the images. One of the first films that really evokes this notion that film could be poetry in motion, poetry in light.
In the early twenties, Man Ray bought a small film camera that could hold a few feet of standard film and Tristan Tzara, the key figure in Dada movement, encouraged him to create a Dada film. Man Ray set up this camera and filmed some of his art work in movement, as well as other shots: a turning paper spiral, his airbrush painting Dancer/Danger, to which he gave a sense of movement by blowing smoke at it, an egg divider which he hung up and turned in front of the camera, his ‘visual’ poem consisting of only horizontal lines, which he moved back and forth, the lights of a merry-go-round at night, and of course the most beautiful object for Man Ray, the naked female torso turning in front of striped curtains. The female body thus becomes a canvas for the lines of light.
"Acquiring a roll of a hundred feet of film, I went into my darkroom and cut up the material into short lengths, pinning them down on the worktable. On some strips I sprinkled salt and pepper, like a cook preparing a roast, on other strips I threw pins and thumbtacks at random; then I turned on the white light for a second or two, as I had done for my still Rayographs. Then I carefully lifted the film off the table, shaking off the debris, and developed it in my tanks. The next morning, when dry, I examined the work; the salt, pins and tacks were perfectly reproduced." Man Ray described the process of creating Retour in his Self-Portrait.