Saturday, December 10, 2011

Un Chien Andalou

PCMR Verdict: Today, these first 15 minutes of Bunuel's cinematic career still have a big impact, but in 1929 - that's a full 82 years ago - Bunuel's surrealist handshake to the world of cinema must have been seismic. It's surreal and non-linear, and co-writer Salvador Dali stamps his presence on a number of scenes. It's confusing and strange, but is certainly memorable!

PCMR Rating: 7/10

It seems only proper to start this retrospective of Luis Bunuel at the beginning. In 1929, Luis Bunuel co-wrote 'Un Chien Andalou' - a.k.a. 'An Andalusian Dog' - with Spanish compatriot and surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The film is a short, at only 15 minutes, but it has certainly had a lasting impact.

It would be unfair to call it incoherent, but the film is essentially a collection of unrelated images. While making the movie Dali and Bunuel challenged themselves to not provide any rational explanation for the images presented on screen.

It's tempting to believe that controversial art has only existed in our own generation, but in the first few seconds of this film, Bunuel explodes that conceit, and slashes a woman's eyeball with a cut-throat razor. In reality, the eyeball belonged to a calf, but the effect is startling. Dali's imagery is also prevalent: one of the main characters' hands is crawling with ants.

The soundtrack is Richard Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and is also memorably jaunty, providing a light counterbalance to the strangely dark imagery on screen. An amazing foot-note is that Bunuel himself played the score live at the movie's premiere in Paris in 1929!

This fiteen minutes features sex, death and a death's head moth, which you might recognise from 'Silence of the Lambs'. The surrealist imagery is jarring and disjointed at times, but the film is never dull, and always visually interesting. It's mind-blowing to think that it was made more than 80 years ago. If the rest of Bunuel's work is half as interesting as this, then this retrospective should be an interesting trip!

You can watch 'Un Chien Andalou' on youtube here.

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