Dreams That Money Can Buy

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Dreams That Money Can Buy
Dreams that money can buy.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Hans Richter
Produced by Kenneth Macpherson
Hans Richter
Written by Josh White
Man Ray (uncredited:"Ruth Roses and Revolvers")
Hans Rehfisch
Hans Richter
David Vern
Starring Jack Bittner
Libby Holman
Josh White
Music by Louis Applebaum ("Narcissus")
Paul Bowles ("Desire" and "Ballet")
John Cage ("Discs")
David Diamond ("Circus")
Darius Milhaud ("Ruth, Roses and Revolvers")
Josh White ("The Girl With the Prefabricated Heart")
Cinematography Werner Brandes
Arnold S. Eagle
Peter Glushanok
Herman Shulman
Victor Vicas
Release dates
September 1947
Running time
99 mins
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $15,000

Dreams That Money Can Buy is a 1947 experimental feature color film written, produced, and directed by surrealist artist and dada film-theorist Hans Richter.

The film was produced by Kenneth Macpherson and Peggy Guggenheim.[1]

Collaborators included Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Darius Milhaud and Fernand Léger. The film won the Award for the Best Original Contribution to the Progress of Cinematography at the 1947 Venice Film Festival.


Joe/Narcissus (Jack Bittner) is an ordinary man who has recently signed a complicated lease on a room. As he wonders how to pay the rent, he discovers that he can see the contents of his mind unfolding whilst looking into his eyes in the mirror. He realises that he can apply his gift to others ("If you can look inside yourself, you can look inside anyone!"), and sets up a business in his room, selling tailor-made dreams to a variety of frustrated and neurotic clients. Each of the seven surreal dream sequences in the diegesis is in fact the creation of a contemporary avant-garde and/or surrealist artist, as follows:

Desire Max Ernst (Director/Writer)
The Girl with the Prefabricated Heart Fernand Léger (Director/Writer)

Song Lyrics John Latouche Sung by Libby Holman and Josh White, accompanied by Norma Cazanjian and Doris Okerson

Ruth, Roses and Revolvers Man Ray (Director/Writer)

Music By Darius Milhaud

Discs Marcel Duchamp (Writer)

Music By John Cage

Circus Alexander Calder (Writer)

Music By David Diamond

Ballet Alexander Calder (Director/Writer)

Music By Paul Bowles

Narcissus Hans Richter (Director/Writer)

Music By Louis Applebaum Dialogue by Richard Holback and Hans Richter

Joe's waiting room is full within minutes of his first day of operation, "the first installment on the 2 billion clients" according to the male narrator in voiceover, whose voice is the only one we hear in the non-dream sequences.

Case number one is Mr and Mrs A. Mr A is a "methodical, exact" bank clerk. His wife "complains [he] has a mind like a double entry column; no virtues, no vices". She wants a dream for him "with practical values to widen his horizons, heighten ambitions, maybe a raise in salary". Joe asks Mrs A to leave the room during Mr A's consultation. Mr A reveals that within his ledger he has a collection of art images cut from magazines, including drawings of a woman reclining in bed; another on an old man's lap; another being shot by an animal-headed man; a filmic image of red liquid passing through water, and another of a melting wax figure of a woman.

Joe "finds a dream" for Mr A based on these interests. In the dream ("Desire") leaves fall to the ground beside a red curtain. A woman in white reclines in a red-curtained four-poster bed. A small golden ball rises and falls from her mouth as she breathes. She swallows the ball, smiles and falls asleep. Bars appear by her bed, and a man watches from behind them as she dreams of nightingales with calves' hooves. It appears the man is part of her dream, and telephones her to ask in voiceover for details. She tells him in voiceover "they talked about love and pleasure". Her telephone falls to the floor and excludes a misty smoke, which envelops her bed. Two young men tumble over each other in what seems like a war scene; they are pulled from underneath the bed, along with a woman in white. The watching man enters the scene, raises her from her bed, and they embrace. They exit the room, tumbling through a corridor wreathed in steam. A white-haired man in evening dress watches them dance. The dream sequence continues with two men playing dice in the leaves of a dark brick-lined corridor, The narrating voice says "who wants to come with me under my warm white gown," repeaing the last three words several times and closes with the woman tossing something into the air and catching it.

Case number two ("The Girl With the Prefabricated Heart") begins as Joe accepts payment from Mr. A and ends his session, as a young woman wearing a suit, glasses, and a beret enters the room carrying a briefcase, and Mrs. A returns and glares. The A's leave. The young woman tries to "sign Joe up" for various causes. In voiceover, she tries to convince Joe while we hear a man's voice telling Joe to resist her. She flirts, cries, almost leaves, comes back. The music features a repeated wolf whistle over a light jazz tune. Joe signs. He removes her glasses and they almost kiss. Smoke fills the screen, and clears with a closeup on a dismembered mannequin. The music is a light tune sung by Holman with the refrain of "untouched by human hands." It segues into a sequence in which wigged and costumed mannequins seem to dance and pose. Holman and White sing. Whirling wheel graphics punctuate the scenes as jewellery is offered to "a healthy girl", Julie, as the male singer/mannequin woos her. She cries "this is ridiculous! Sisters, come to my aid!" and "so from his ardent arms she fled." The male mannequin is beheaded as Julie rides on an exercise cycle dressed in a bridal gown. "for there's no man alive who could ever survive a girl with a prefabricated heart." We transition back to Joe's offce as the young woman leaves, then suddenly returns and kisses him, then leaves again.

As she leaves, Mrs. A returns with a garbled, speeded up voiceover expressing her stream of consciousness. Case number three begins. "You'll find out noghing here this mans is obviously a fake of some kind." But she wants a treatment.


Credited Cast[edit]

(Cast list source: imdb [2]


  1. ^ ‘Hans Richter - Senses Of Cinema, Great Directors Issue 49[1]

External links[edit]