A Return to The Return to Reason

Laser etched BW 35mm film, 2014.
Silent, RT: 2 min 56 seconds

Directed by: Sabine Gruffat

Produced by: Bill Brown and Sabine Gruffat

Film cleaning and cement splicing:

A scratch film for the 21st Century where 35mm black leader is meticulously etched frame by frame using a digital laser cutter (a machine designed for precision carpentry). A Return to The Return to Reason is a conceptual and materialist tribute to Man Ray's 1923 film Le Retour à La Raison (A Return to Reason), the first film to use the 'Rayograph' technique in which Man Ray exposed found objects onto film negative.

For Gruffat, Man Ray’s film is itself a found object. Its images and artifacts – the scratches, splices, and blemishes of a 35mm film print – are translated into the pixelated language of a computer-controlled laser cutter. The film images are created as the laser engraver scratches away the emulsion on the black leader.

Working in the tradition of artists who have hacked or detourned technologies for creative purposes, Gruffat has discovered an entirely novel process for making moving images. In the same way that the inventors of roll film did not anticipate Man Ray’s creative interventions, the inventors of the laser cutter did not have filmmaking in mind as an application for their technology. In these waning days of analog filmmaking, Gruffat’s film thus suggests an innovative approach to filmmaking and one possible future for materialist image-making in the digital era.

SCREENINGS: World Premiere: Ann Arbor Film Festival, March 2014.