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SPECIAL FOCUS: THE ART COMMISSION

THE SONG OF PLASTIC / LE CHANT DU STYRÈNE By Alain Resnais

THE NGEE ANN KONGSI AUDITORIUM

France | French with English subtitles | 1958 | 14 min | G

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Commissioned by Société Pechiney to celebrate the polystyrene products manufactured at its factories, this film traces the metamorphosis of raw material to plastic object in reverse. Starting with melted-down masses of finished products, the film develops as an ensemble of the changes wrought by the mechanical processes applied to polystyrene components. This pursuit unexpectedly brings us to a non-material source— creative impulse. At first glance, director Alain Resnais seems to fragment the mechanism of plastic-making. However, the juxtaposition of montage elements like stylised mise-

en-scène, Sacha Vierny’s languid camera movements, Raymond Queneau’s versecommentary, and Pierre Barbaud’s dramatic orchestral score simply serves to surface creative flux, which is at the heart of this process. In an interview for Film Quarterly with Noel Burch in 1960, Resnais made light of the subject of his last documentary short: “polystyrene just happened to be the most amusing subject proposed to me at a time when I needed money.” Nonetheless, the tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of the mechanical process reflects the innovative spirit of this enterprise. Just as chemists transform “lowly residue” into new and

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