Taking Man Ray’s inscrutable cine-poem Emak-Bakia (1927) as inspiration, The Search for Emak Bakia sees director Oskar Alegria walk the Basque coast with chance as his compass, following in the American surrealist’s footsteps and taking numerous enriching detours. It’s a suitably abstract approach: Alegria layers Man Ray’s avant-garde experiments over recreations and re-visitations, hunting out the house that inspired the film’s title and visiting clown graves and dreaming swine along the way. The film’s visual palimpsests are interspersed with text that’s by turns informational and contemplative, while a nice sense of absurdity keeps pretension at bay.
Those with an active interest in Man Ray’s oeuvre
will understandably gain most from The Search for Emak Bakia,
but its constant inventiveness also affords the film an unexpected
accessibility, stocking it full of engrossing moments worth lingering
over. “Now I’ve gotten all muddled” confessed one interviewee, “I hope
you can untangle it later”. It’s not a straightforward task, but it’s an
immensely satisfying and inspiring one.