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Our profound thanks go out to Boing Boing today for unearthing Adrian Maben’s Monsieur René Magritte, an amazing short documentary about René Magritte from 1978. For those not familiar with the artist (although you’ve probably seen reproductions of some of his most famous images), allow our narrator to introduce you: “He was Belgian and a Surrealist: René Magritte.”

That’s pretty much the tone of the whole movie: matter-of-fact and yet subtly dramatic, plus a tad, well, educational. It’s also delivered entirely by men with thick British accents who seem to think they are reading a storybook to children: they overinflect many things for emphasis. “He detested journeys,” we are told. Ah yes, those tedious journeys. A few minutes later, the man reading Magritte (IMDB lists Magritte as himself, but I’m skeptical, since Magritte died in 1967) gives us a list of plenty more things he detests:

I detest resignation, patience, professional heroism, and all obligatory noble sentiments. I also detest the decorative arts, folklore, advertising … um … [as if pondering, “what else can I detest?”] the voices of announcers, aerodynamics, boy scouts, current affairs and drunks.

He’s not all a grump though; there are many things Magritte loved, and the film includes some wonderful archival interview footage, as well as old photographs of him and his family, shots of the interior of his house as it was after he died and images of many of his paintings evocatively and playfully interspersed.

But wait! I haven’t even told you the best part yet: the odd, staccato soundtrack was composed and performed by none other than Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. This makes for an odd pairing — the tripped out music together with the thick, educational British accents. The best moment of this comes around 8:45, when there’s a loud twang of Waters’s electric guitar, which is then abruptly faded down and followed by Magritte saying, “I want to breathe new life into the way we look at the ordinary things around us.” It’s so incongruous. And so great.

Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...