“Dreamfactory,” Metafilm, and the Politics of Form
In 1936, his politics still leftist but increasingly apprehensive about Communism, Dos Passos used his exposure to the Hollywood film industry to create his only independent film treatment, “Dreamfactory.” This manuscript, though never produced as a film, is the only film project he undertook consisting entirely of his own concepts and his own writing. “Dreamfactory” imagines visually what The Big Money communicates by adapting montage to the page: the complicit relationship between film and the creation of material desire that fuels capitalism. Using the techniques of montage Dos Passos had absorbed from early U.S. and Soviet film, the treatment employs the tools of its own making to critique itself as a product. This innovative work presaged the political and professional crisis that would emerge from Dos Passos’s next film project, the documentary The Spanish Earth (1937): though Dos Passos wrote the “Dreamfactory” treatment, its ideological direction was the subject of correspondence between him and the Dutch Communist filmmaker, Joris Ivens, who would direct the Spanish film. Ivens’ conception of his art as a vehicle to be shaped by the ideological demands of the Party would conflict with Dos Passos’s belief that art should evoke creative engagement and individual choice.
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