In Woody Allen’s latest film “Midnight in Paris”, the actor Adrien Brody does a memorable cameo as Salvador Dali. It’s a very funny scene in which Owen Wilson’s character, Gil, finds himself sitting at a cafe table in Paris with the Spanish artist and his surrealist buddies Luis Buñuel and Man Ray. Gil shares with the men his confused feelings about his life and career, his fiancee (played by Rachel McAdams) and his bizarre delusions of time-traveling back and forth from the 21st century to the 1920s. Brody’s Dali, speaking in almost indecipherable heavily-accented English, starts babbling on about drawing and rhinoceroses fornicating. Man Ray seems to think there is nothing peculiar at all about Gil’s strange fantasies. It’s amusing to watch Gil try to distinguish dreams from reality while commiserating with a group of surrealists. They are of course no help to him at all.
Salvador Dali is one of those characters who was in real life just as offbeat and cartoonish as he is perceived. He cultivated that image. We’ve all seen pictures of him with his bulging eyes, outlandish moustache, looking completely crazy and off his rocker. He even made odd appearances as a contestant on TV game shows in the 1950s. In “Midnight in Paris”, Adrien Brody almost seemed to underplay Dali’s weirdo persona, yet still managed to communicate the artist’s eccentricity to a tee. I’m a fan of both Brody and Dali so the cameo was a special treat for me. I recounted a personal story about Salvador Dali from my childhood in an old Museworthy post.
While Salvador Dali will forever be a colorful cult figure in popular culture, his expert artistic talents should never be overlooked. The man was an amazing draftsman and painter. His works are absolutely masterful in their use of geometry, symbolism, space, and vivid imaginings. I especially like Dali’s treatment of religious themes. Look at his version of the Ascension of Christ, from 1958. That is some serious foreshortening!