La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier


La femme 100 têtes: L’immaculée conception (1929).

Salvador Dalí never lacked for attention from filmmakers, as has been noted here on several occasions. Max Ernst, on the other hand, received far less attention despite being an actor and collaborator in two of the most significant Surrealist films, L’Age D’Or (1930) and Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947).


La femme 100 têtes: Alors je vous présenterai l’oncle (1929).

One of the key works in the Ernst filmography is La femme 100 têtes, a 19-minute film from 1967 based on the series of collages Ernst created under that title in 1929, precursors to his collage masterwork Une semaine de bonté (1934). Eric Duvivier was the director, nephew of the celebrated French director Julien Duvivier, and a director of many educational films, none of which seem to be listed on IMDB. Duvivier’s film may be short but he had the resources to go to some extraordinary lengths in replicating cinematically so many of Ernst’s collages. Some of the scenes merely require a room or a street, in others bizarre or elaborate sets have had to be built then populated with actors for shots that last less than half a minute.


La femme 100 têtes (1967).

Why go to all this effort in 1967? The clue is in the name and logo of the producer—Sandoz—the pharmaceutical company that invented and manufactured LSD. Sandoz had a film division which they used to create promotional films for their products. Among the ones related to LSD are Images du monde visionnaire (1964), directed by Henri Michaux and Eric Duvivier, and (possibly) La femme 100 têtes. I say “possibly” only because I haven’t seen this confirmed but why else would a pharmaceutical company that just happened to make the world’s most famous hallucinogenic drug make a Surrealist film? Whatever the reason it’s a remarkable piece of work. See it on YouTube here.


La femme 100 têtes (1967).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Scenes from a carriage
Surrealist echoes
Max (The Birdman) Ernst
The Robing of the Birds

8 thoughts on “La femme 100 têtes by Eric Duvivier”

  1. Wow. Like so many other things, I would never have known about this had you not felt the need to share. Thanks for yet another trip!

  2. Wow indeed! I’ve long admired Ernst’s collages (and actually was looking at some images from “La femme 100 têtes” again just yesterday), but never heard a thing about a film version! Can’t wait to check it out!

  3. Hi Edward. I don’t know much about Claude Sandoz although his work turns up in areas associated with Fantastic Art. I’ve also not seem him associated with this film whereas the connection between Duvivier and the Sandoz company is established via Duvivier’s earlier work. The present Sandoz company still uses the same logo as is seen at the opening of the Ernst film.

  4. Swiss pharmaceutical corporation, makers of the soon-to-be illegal social explosive, sponsors film in fashionably ‘subversive’ style, which is a revival of a declining art movement whose revolutionary pretenses have been all but replaced by a commercially successful visual language. The irony is making my head hurt.

    Thanks for this fantastic find.

  5. Duvivier’s work on Images du monde visionnaire apparently caught the eye of Henri-Georges Clouzot, who asked him to work on the special effects for his abortive movie project L’Enfer

  6. Mister Aitch: good to hear from you again. I’d seen mention of Duvivier’s connection with L’Enfer, makes me more interested now in seeing that recent film about the production.

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