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If you are in the mood to torture yourself and see a piece of
mind-numbingly bad cinema AND be seen by pseudo-intellectuals as "with
it", then do I have a film for you! You MUST see Un Chien Andalou! This
is sort of like a home movie based on dreams by a psychotic
sadist--with no comprehensible plot, violent and repellent images (such
as a close up of an eyeball being slashed by a razor, a severed hand
laying in the street, a woman being run over, a pointless murder,
etc.). In fact, I can't help but think that the film's creators,
Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, just created this movie as a way to
laugh at intellectuals and wannabes who just ate this crap up and
declared it to be "high art".
By the way, this film is highly reminiscent of Jean Cocteau's BLOOD OF A POET--another home movie full of really interesting images (but zero plot) that is adored by the elite. Both are incomprehensible and boring films, though at least Cocteau's is harmless. Plus, Cocteau went on in later years to make some magnificent films, whereas Dalí just seems to have gone mad and Buñuel continued making movie that made everyone's head hurt.
The Emperor has NO CLOTHES!
When it comes to the sheer impact of its overall shock-value - I'd
definitely say that 1929's Un Chien Andalou really doesn't even come
close to living up to its celebrated reputation at all. No it doesn't.
Not even by a surrealistic country mile.
Over the years I have heard nothing but loud applause and excited praise for this silent-era film which is held up in such high-regard and considered to be the very first of its kind to emerge from the early 20th Century's "Surrealist Movement" of film-making.
Sure, 86 years ago Un Chien Andalou may have totally shocked and disgusted its audience (as it was clearly intended to do). But, today, for the jaded, "seen-it-all" viewer, this 16-minute short only succeeded in its demented, little mission by holding my attention for but a few brief sequences.
Directed by Spanish, avant-garde, film-maker, Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou's story was hatched from the unhinged ideas that seeped out of Salvador Dali's head.
I usually begin my reviews with a plot summary, but there's no real
plot to speak of. There may be some connection between it all, but that
is largely left up to the imagination of the viewer.
Film historian Ivan Butler says that the film opens "with a scene as horrifying as any seen before or since... put in deliberately to shock and alienate the audience." Filmed in 1929, Butler's words remain true even today (2010). Such violence (if we may call it violence) would not reappear for decades, and certainly wouldn't pass the censors. Mike Mayo agrees, saying the scene "set standards of shock value that few of today's horrors can match." That, and a fairly rough groping scene a few minutes later.
But, does it stop with this? Oh, no. We have the Androgynous Child prodding a severed hand with a stick, and soon come upon two rotting horse carcasses stashed in dual pianos, alongside two priests (one of whom is played by Salvador Dali).
A death's head moth (made famous by "Silence of the Lambs") appears, with its distinctive mark an indistinguishable mesh between a skull and the face of Jesus Christ, yet another symbol evoking both religion and death. These seem to be the running themes: religion (the priests, the nun habit) and death. What, if anything, is to be made from this?
Such surrealism anticipates the work of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, perhaps most notably "Naked Lunch". I am at a loss to name any other director between Luis Bunuel and Cronenberg who has come close to this level of absurdity. For those interested in surreal art put to film, this is where you want to start.
I am about to answer the question that has been unanswered since 1929. I have the answer that explains what is happening in this film and why. More simple than it really is, the entire film is not as complicated as many think. The entire film is a mixture of dreams and thoughts coming from the male lead. He has nothing on his mind but his girlfriend. Throughout the entire film, we see him question himself whether or not he should marry her! That's it! We see examples of this with the way he looks at her and then sees images of commitment, divorce, and priests carrying a burden over their shoulders like a dead mule. A wonderful film non the less, you have to check this out whether or not you're a fan of Avant-Garde
I find it hilarious that so many people who have posted here are even
attempting to place any meaning whatsoever into this film's imagery! The
only point to be made in this movie is that there should be no point to be
made. Any significance placed onto anything contained in this film is a
complete fabrication of the narrow-minded viewer who believes movies are
only made to carry some message. That is the genius of Bunuel and Dali.
They were surrealists. The point of surrealism is that there is no point,
no meaning whatsoever.
Personally, you all may dissect (pun intended) and pore over this great film if you please, but you are fools in the eyes of the (deceased) filmmakers for doing so.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Borne out of the reactionary precepts of Dada (1915 - 1920) -- itself a
violent reaction against the evolution of the society of the times
which had culminated in World War One, Surrealism strove to break the
traditions and incorporate the subconscious into the conscious, a
theory Andre Breton described in his Surrealist Manifesto of 1924. In
it, he included all forms of expression: visual and written. He
advocated the use of free-thought, in which a person could tap into his
inner mind, let loose all of the censorship which would dilute these
thoughts, and express them in physical form whether they made sense or
not. It diverged from Dada in the fact that Dada was anti-art in every
form -- it valued nihilism and destruction of preordained forms,
whereas Surrealism brought the irrational into rational form.
During the 1920s Surrealism enjoyed its most prolific expressions. On canvas, Andre Masson was the principal exponent of automatic drawing. Giorgio de Chirico created disturbing landscapes of ominous dread, even though later on he would come to deny his involvement in the genre. Salvador Dali embraced the genre with so much fervor this is where he stayed until his dying day, and to this day, whenever anyone thinks Surrealism, it's inevitable that Dali becomes the first name to be thought of. Such has been Dali's association with the movement, and it's said that with his death in 1989, so died the movement.
However, at its beginning, Surrealism seemed to touch everything it came in contact with. This included film as well. Luis Bunuel, a man who couldn't relate to writing or painting, sought to express it in film. His collaboration with Salvador Dali was this 17 minute nightmare in which disjointed events were woven together by the inherent presence of the dream factor. It's famous now for its shocking depiction of a woman's eye being sliced at the same time a razor-like cloud passes in front of a shining moon. The scene comes with no warning, so the viewer can't be prepared to anticipate its occurrence. It solves nothing, it means nothing, but there it is, oozing sudden violence that ends as quickly as it appears.
Much has been the attempt to disclose the meaning of UN CHIEN ANDALOU. It has none. Having studied Surrealism for most of my incursion into Architecture, I am aware of the fact that because Surrealism delved into the subconscious so openly it flew in the face of concrete explanation. However, the influence the short has had in how movies and stories are told -- whenever a dream or bizarre sequence would be needed -- is unquestionable. Surrealism is present in media advertising, in music videos, in literature, even in architecture, to a lesser degree: one has to only see the bizarre yet beautiful creations of Frank Gehry to see how appropriate they would be in a De Chirico landscape. And anyone who has bought recent compilations of Lovecraft's short stories will see the most bizarre descriptions of a corrupted, blackly sensual world.
Bunuel in his short created a masterpiece that is a must-see for anyone who is studying art and surrealism. Seeing its images, which marry the foldings of time with the notions of death and sex and decay almost seamlessly, is a thing of horror and beauty. While Bunuel only made one more completely Surrealist movie in L'AGE D'OR, this is it, the first one, the most important. It's influenced everyone who's made movies whether they've seen it or not because of Surrealism's inherent presence in the visual. And it's best seen without the annoying soundtrack, added much later to give a sense of time and movement within its deconstructed reality.
This famous film starts in a dream-like sequence, a woman's eye (a
cow's eye was actually used) is slit open and juxtaposed with a
similarly shaped cloud obscuring . After that , there take place
several bizarre events such as a man has a hole in the palm from which
ants emerge , it is shown literally ; later on , a man pulls a piano
along with the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a dead donkey and
two priests being dragged with the piano (a priest is Salvador Dalí) ;
a woman pokes at a severed hand in the street with his cane (legend has
it that the severed hand used in the street scene was a real hand, and
Dali convinced a man to cut it off in exchange for enough money to buy
lunch) , among others .
Abstract film that marked strong polemic in the epoch when it was realised , especially its sliced eyeball at the beginning , and still packs a punch even nowadays . In fact , at the Paris premiere, Luis Buñuel hid behind the screen with stones in his pockets for fear of being attacked by the confused audience . After editing the feature , Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí didn't know what to do with it , as an acquaintance introduced Buñuel to Man Ray, who had just finished Les Mystères du château Dé and was looking for a second film to complete the program , the two movies premiered together at the Studio Ursulines ; it made a deep impression on the Surrealist Group, who welcomed Buñuel into their ranks . The movie contains several references to Federico García Lorca and other writers of that time . The rotting donkeys are a reference to the novel "Platero y yo" by Juan Ramón Jiménez, which Luis Buñuel and Dalí hated . In 1960, a soundtrack was added to this film at the direction of Luis Buñuel , he used the same music which was played , using phonograph records , at the 1929 screenings-extracts from "Liebestod" from Richard Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" and two Argentinian tangos.
This rare short belongs to Luis Buñuel's first period and has been voted as one of "The 25 Most Dangerous Movies" . After moving to Paris , Buñuel did a variety of film-related odd jobs , including working as an assistant to director Jean Epstein . With financial help from his mother and creative assistance from Dalí, he made his first film , this 17-minute "Un Chien Andalou" (1929), and immediately catapulted himself into film history thanks to its disturbing images and surrealist plot . The following year , sponsored by wealthy art patrons, he made his first picture , the scabrous witty and violent "Age of Gold" (1930), which mercilessly attacked the church and the middle classes, themes that would preoccupy Buñuel for the rest of his career . That career, though, seemed almost over by the mid-1930s, as he found work increasingly hard to come by and after the Spanish Civil War , where he made ¨Las Hurdes¨ , as Luis emigrated to the US where he worked for the Museum of Modern Art and as a film dubber for Warner Bros . He subsequently went on his Mexican period with "The Great Madcap" , ¨Los Olvidados¨ , ¨The brute¨, "Wuthering Heights", ¨El¨ , "The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De la Cruz" , ¨Robinson Crusoe¨ and many others . And finally his French-Spanish period with notorious as well as polemic films such as ¨Viridiana¨ , Tristana¨ , ¨The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and his last picture , "That Obscure Object of Desire" .
There can't be many films that have polarised public and critical
opinion as much as this one has. Listening to the guy on the commentary
nearly tying himself in knots as he struggled to explain the
significance and symbolism of every moment of this bizarre film, it
occurred to me that maybe Bunuel and Dali had never intended the film
to make sense on any level. Bunuel himself said the film was a
combination of dreams he and Dali had each had, but the guy on the DVD
I wish I could remember his name actually dismissed this, insisting
instead that is a treatise on sexual anxiety and the fear of
castration. To this day the critics still can't agree.
The fact is, the film is so impenetrable and determinedly obscure that anyone with a given amount of intelligence could choose to interpret this film in any way they chose and come up with a pretty convincing argument that theirs is the most plausible theory as to its' meaning. I've heard, in the past, film directors complain that critics try to read to much into their films, and that sometimes what is on the screen is all that there is, that there is no deeper significance than the action taking place in front of our eyes. When I watch a film like this, I sometimes wonder whether the makers are deliberately playing with these critics, and that they collect each pompous theory about its meaning the way a Red Indian collects scalps.
The film is interesting, there's no doubt about that. Surreal, avant-garde, call it what you will Bunuel and Dali certainly knew how to create an eye-catching image, and we'll never know what other absurdities they might have dreamed up together (geddit?) if they hadn't fallen out. Having said that, if it was ten or fifteen minutes longer, I suspect frustration and boredom would have set in. I don't mind having to think while I'm watching a film and I like to think I can understand at least some of what the director is trying to say (although some who have read my comments on this site might think otherwise) but films like this simply can't be analysed in any depth or at any level in one sitting and, quite frankly, having now watched it twice (the second time with that comedy commentary I mentioned earlier) I'm not intrigued enough to want to sit through it again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie truly is a capture of surrealism. It brings out dreams into reality and makes anything possible. The eye scene is the most graphic scene, done as means of a reaction. I cringe every time I see that scene. The scene with ants coming out of the man's hand deals with the idea of surrealism. All these scenes deals with something more than just plain randomness. Directed by Luis Buñuel , the master of surrealism, he provokes a message in the scenes. Also written by Salavdor Dali, one can see the film in an artistic aspect. It is a different film, that really reveals that dreams could be real. I recommend this film if you are interested in something different and creative.
"Un Chien Andalou" (or "An Andalusian Dog," a title which has effectively
nothing to do with the film) is virtually a trailer to Luis Bunuel's entire
career, containing all the themes the surrealist would later tackle in
masterpiece after masterpiece. Actually, that is far from a fair statement.
While "Un Chien" is merely 16 minutes long, it is still exceptionally
artful, even while it is anti-artistic (that is against everything that had
come to be synonymous with art). It is still a delightfully subversive
testament to the possibilities of art; possibilities weighed down by years
of middle class expectations and oppression.
In this, and many other ways, it is a wicked slap to the face of modern right wing sensibilities, and not only formally, but structurally as well. Take the infamous eye-cutting scene for instance. Not only is the content shocking, but the editing. As Bunuel holds the razor to the 's eye, the camera cuts to a shot of a thin cloud bisecting the moon. Conditioned movie audiences will assume this is a metaphor for the eye-cutting, and think they are to be spared the atrocities. But, Bunuel quickly cuts mercilessly to the violent act anyway. In ways like this he infuriates standards set up by typical cinema of every era, and all this back in 1928!
Yet there are still more merits to "Un Chien Andalou," another amazing thing being that it can be at once brilliantly structured and spontaneous, in itself a complete paradox. I can not say that any later film, even in Bunuel's arch, has ever achieved this. So, in this way, "Un Chien Andalou" is the only completely true example of surrealism in film.
I hope this has prompted you to view this film, as I can recommend to it no end. I own a copy and see it quite often, just for a little inspiration until my next viewing. Every time I find it to be fresh and liberating. It is a film that has the retro, razor-blade formula down pat, and I'm just waiting for it to resurface as a major force in pop art and ure. If everyone were to view this film, art would not so often be seen as merely paint and popsicle sticks.
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