Dreams Money Can Buy is a 1947 anthology film made by artist/author Hans Richter and collaborators like Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Max Ernst and others. There is music from John Cage, Paul Bowles and a number by scandalous bisexual torch singer Libby Holman and popular African-American singer Josh White (who was later caught up in the “Red Scare” and black-listed) on the original soundtrack titled “The Girl with the Pre-Fabricated Heart” that plays during Leger’s segment.
Richter’s goal was to bring the avant-garde out of the museum and into the movie house and the results, predictably, are rather unique. Certainly Dreams Money Can Buy must have been a stunner at the time and it still is. With no spoken dialogue, the plot, such that there is one, revolves around a man who rents a room where he can peer into the mirror and see people’s dreams. He sets up shop and we meet his clients and see their interior lives in the dream sequences. As you can imagine with the above list of collaborators, the film is a dizzying treat of audio-visual creation.
Marcel Duchamp’s contribution “Discs” is especially interesting. Here we see Duchamp’s famous Rotoreliefs in action, with a “prepared piano” soundtrack performed by John Cage. [I was once offered a box of glass and wood reproductions in miniature of Duchamp’s kinetic sculptures—at a good price, too—and like a fucking idiot I passed on it].
Below, Dreams Money Can Buy in its entirety on YouTube. If you want to watch with the original soundtrack, it’s here. The “modern” soundtrack in the version embedded below was recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld and is pretty faithful to the original music. This is one of those films that demands to be screened outside at night under the stars. You can buy the DVD (which has both the original and modern soundtrack) here.