This film records an in-depth interview with French artist Marcel Duchamp [1887-1968] which took place five years before his death, at the time of his first ever one-man show (at the Pasadena Art Museum). It records for posterity Duchamp talking about his life, his ideas on art, why he chose to continue living in America after fleeing France in 1915, and why he virtually abandoned his work as an artist in 1923. While he is most often associated with Dada and Surrealism, his participation in Surrealism was largely behind the scenes, and after being involved in New York Dada, he barely participated in Paris Dada. An engaging dialogue takes place between Duchamp and film-maker Jean-Marie Drot as they go around the Pasadena show, with the artist commenting on the exhibits and using them to explain the various stages of the development of his work. This is punctuated by the games of chess, which were for Duchamp a passion and a metaphor for the mental discipline he applied to his art. In this film we gain a rare glimpse of him talking with humour and insight about his ideas, and living up to the myth of the artist-philosopher that has grown up around him.
Jeu d'échecs avec Marcel Duchamp was filmed late 1963 in Pasadena and New York for the Radio Télévision Française (RTF); first broadcast on 8 June 1964 and then shown at the International Festival of Artistic Films and Films of Art (Bergamo, 19 September 1964). A videocassette was issued by Public Media, Chicago 1987 (Marcel Duchamp. A Game of Chess) and by Phaidon (2007). The English version was presented in a television broadcast in September 1964 in the 'Art and Man' Series.