Tuesday, May 14, 2019



Director: Luis Bunuel
Screenplay: Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel

"Un Chien Andalou," which translates to "An Andalusian Dog," althouogh doesn't really help you, is a 16-minute short film that I first saw when my 12th Grade English teacher, Mr. Akers, showed it to me and my best friend Renee before class one day. He later showed it to the English class I was in, at least the first couple minutes of it. I'm pretty sure he did it just to fuck with our heads. Mr. Akers was a bit of a sadist, but he was a good teacher. 

Of course, pretty much the only reason the film exists is to fuck with us. Every cinephile has at some point gotten around to watching or re-watching the film several times and now with Youtube. I'm amazed it's not more of a famous meme or trick, to just make people watch it. This is what "Rickrolling" should be; people try watching a cool video on Youtube, and then they get "Un Chien Andalou" instead.  It's been making filmmakers, cinephiles and critics stare at the screen and go, “What the fuck was that!?” for ninety years, why not show this to the laymen? See how many get past the razor blade slicing through the eye, and see how much farther they get afterwards! 

The movie was made by two brash young artists in their twenties, intending to insult all movie convention to that point. One is Salvador Dali, the famous surrealist painter, whose paintings are some of the mostly highly-coveted works of art of all-time even today, and frankly most of his work still gives me nightmares as much as I admire it. The other, is filmmaker Luis Bunuel, whose work is distinctive in its use of dreams infiltrating the real world, and vice-versa, assuming there's a real world in most of his movies. I've written on a couple of his films for the Canon before, "Belle De Jour" about a wife who explores her deepest sexual desires and fetishes by becoming a prostiture, and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie", a movie about aristocrats who keep trying to sit down for dinner, and keep failing over and over again. Both those movies are strange affornts to the norms of society in their own right, but they were also made by the old man Bunuel who smoked a chimney every day and looked like was about too keel over and drop dead for thirty years or so before he finally did, and those movies, along with many of his other great films are either just regular movies and at most are merely subversive, comparatively. "Un Chien Andalou", is just plain anarchial. It doesn't break the rules, it doesn't accept that there are rules to begin with.

What rules? Pick them, rules of storytelling, rules of filmmaking, rules of editing. The only logic it follows is dream-logic, but who's the one dreaming? I mean, I know Dali & Bunuel had dreams that contributed to the film, Dali dreaming about the hand crawling with ants, Bunuel with the cloud cutting across the moon, but who's the person having the dreams of these sequence of events within the frame of the movie? Of course, that's assuming there's a frame to begin with.

This film begins with a man sharpening a razor blade, and a cloud splicing across a moon, before the man slices the blade across a girl’s eye. (Actually it was a calf’s eye, which, um, better, I guess? [Shrugs]) Then we see a transvestite fall off a bicycle. A girl, who was reading about Vermeer sees the transvestive and helps him up to her apartment, (Assuming any two scenes are actually in any remote way connected to each other to begin with, which is at most a stretch.) . Then she's seen sorting ties and collecting men's clothing. The transvestite is now in the room with her and stares at his hand, which has a hole with ants coming in and out it and crawling all up and down his hand. Then there's a severed hand on the street that's being picked at by a cane by a man, or a woman, and now there's a crowd. An officer helps the woman collect her severed hand and puts it back into her, box that looks like the tie box the woman at the window had earlier. Then she stands in the street until a car runs over her. Now, the Girl in the room defends herself against the Transvestite, I think, who's now a man with ants in his hands, I think, who’s just groped the hell out of her breasts (silent film rape, maybe, I guess?).while fantasizing about, her being naked and feeling her up...? He then chases her around the room before she defends herself against him with, I think a racquet of some kind. He then tries attacking her again but is slowed down by dragging a piano with two dead donkeys, two stones tablets (presuming the Ten Commandments), and two priests on his back.

And then it gets weird.

What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing. Our natural instincts will try to make sense out of this, but it’s no use. Hell, that's falling into the movie's trap, it's natural instinct for us to try to explain, to order, to make sense of the intent, to try to see what the art is trying to say, to interpret, to find meaning that may or may not be there to begin with. But there's no meaning to any of this. It’s the first pure example in film of art for art sake, if one decides to clarify this as art. Today, we call it the cinematic equivalent of shitposting. It's the early experimental Youtube videos from the future Youtube influencer sensation who years later finally figured out what they wanted to do and how to do it. The movie has no point other than to antagonize the audience and challenge or breaks or disregard or destroy all the conventions of film at the time. At most, "Un Chien Andalou" plays like a dream, with no rules as to what can happen or what can’t and no explanation of why. Legend has it that at the film’s initial screening, Bunuel had rocks in his pockets to throw at the audience in self-defense, assuming/fearing they’d be eviscerated after the screening. Of course, that's a legend that he made up years later and probably isn't true, just him rewriting the events the way he probably dreamed them. It’s probably not an unreasonable plan but instead, they were applauded, which apparently disappointed Dali.

Dali and Bunuel had a falling out shrotly after this and after Dali helped write Bunuel's next film, "L'Age D'Or" they never worked together again. Dali did little film work after this, mostly some sporadic occasional set design work, always for dream sequences, most notably for Alfred Hitchcock in "Spellbound". Bunuel directed for the next half century. His work often involves dreams underlying thoughts and situations and just typical absurdism. There’s probably a good four or five other films of his I can add in the future, like “That Obscure Object of Desire”, or “The Exterminating Angel”. He occasionally would make more straight-forward movies to, although I tend to prefer his more idealistic and absurdist pieces, perhaps because that’s how I was introduced to him, although I can certainly appreciate films like “Los Ovlidados (aka The Young and the Damned)" and "Viridiana" . After watching this short of his, it will easily get you ready for all his other works, and I highly recommend all these works, especially if you feel dream logic is more entrancing then real logic.

Mostly though, "Un Chien Andalou" exists best to be used, the way my teacher used it, just to show others in order to freak them the fuck out. 

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