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Un Chien Andalou (1929)

May 27, 2008 1 comment

Un Chien Andalou (English: An Andalusian Dog), one of Luis Bunuel’s earliest works, is a series of bizarre dreamlike visuals that aren’t connected by a plot. The starting sequence is one of the most famous sequences in cinema, where an unnamed man (Salvador Dali, who was also co-scriptwriter and co-director) slits an unnamed woman’s eye with a razor. The actual eye cut was that of a dead calf, and intense light was used to make the furry face of the calf appear hairless.

Successive scenes show: a blind woman poking a severed hand with her walking stick till she gets run over by a car; a man forcibly trying to fondle a woman, who retreats into a corner to defend herself, after which the man drags towards her, two grand pianos with rotting donkey carcasses on them, tied to two priests (one of whom is Dali), who are tied to two tablets bearing the Ten Commandments, which are tied to the original man; the man’s father then appears to punish him and hands him two books; the books turn into guns and the man shoots his father with them; the man’s hand has a hole from which ants emerge (literal translation of a French phrase meaning “itching to kill”); a couple on the beach that looks happy, but then ends up buried up to their heads in sand a few shots later….. I think that conveys enough.

The music chosen is just odd: Wagner and a tango. Few combinations may be a bigger mismatch.

The movie is one of the most direct attacks on a person’s senses that I have ever seen. I can picture the reaction of audiences watching in theatres, it must have been shock, horror and disgust. No wonder then that Un Chien Andalou, and many of Bunuel’s later films actually caused riots while being screened. It was a revolt against norms of cinematic, and more generally, social propriety; a film made to annoy. It plays on humanity’s natural love for order and fear of chaos, and a viewer will be left helplessly trying to piece together a series of meaningless visuals.

And by the way, both lead actors committed suicide. Somewhat fitting for a bizarre, dark movie like this.

Absta-fucking brilliant.

Music: Le Chant de la Nuit; Autopsia; 2005.

Currently reading: The Decline and Fall of Roman Britain (Neil Faulkner)

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Categories: Bunuel, Cinema, Europe, Surrealism