Hans Richter: Ghosts Before Breakfast


If I speak of that German sense of whimsy it mostly sounds like I’m making a mild ethnic joke. But there is such a thing and for today’s movie I’d like to offer Hans Richter’s 1928 dadaist piece Ghosts Before Breakfast. He directed a series of pieces like this — they turn up on Turner Classic Movies now and then — and they’re just magnificent.

It’s vey easy to do dadaist comedy badly because superficially you’d think it’s just a matter of throwing a lot of nonsense together. This is funny the first time you encounter it and boring ever after. If you put together elements that suggest a narrative — even if they don’t deliver — if they tease the audience by being obviously carefully planned and selected to start sharing a story, though, you can get a great piece like this. It’s whimsical, it’s funny, it’s difficult to summarize without just describing the sequence of images presented. It has hats.