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29 June 2011

[Silent Film Marathon] 19# Un chien Andalau (1929)

My Rating: 8/10

Directed by: Luis Buñuel
Written by: Luis Buñuel & Salvador Dali
Runtime: 17 Minutes
Genre: Art House & International, Fantasy

Surreal, strange, alarming and weird. Those are a few words to describe this film. Having to watch it twice to understand the film, which still didn’t do 100% justice, the film (the few intertitles where in French and weren’t translated. I now totally get it, and for something from 1929, it’s quite an alarming and provoking film. There simply is no plot in this odd film which is essentially a barrage of striking and irrational images designed to shock and provoke. The film is said to be a dream logic film in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes. Dream logic is the perfect way to put it because we have all awoken to remember a very strange dream at one point. This 17 minute short film stands out from the crowd to every other silent film of this era because of its graphic and shocking imagery. Its true treasury of a film and it still manage to make people cringe today with it’s shocking eye slit moment and the weird happenings that take place.


 A film considered ‘Dream Logic’
The film opens with a title card reading "Once upon a time". What may be the film's conclusion unfolds; a middle-aged man (played by Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony. There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the man slits the woman's eye with the razor, and the vitreous humour spills out from it. Being black & white, it was strange to see the vitreous humour come out. The scene was done by cutting the eye of a calf and it’s very convincing.
Moments before the eye cutting scene.
 Un Chien Andalou was one of the first handmade films--movies made by their creators on a shoestring budget, without studio financing. It is an ancestor of the works of John Cassavetes and today's independent digital movies. Today the film is shown in universities and film schools to show it’s powerful and vivid –let’s not forget about cringing- imagery. In one of the scenes we have a man who feels a woman’s breasts, which is the first time I’ve seen anything truly sexual in a silent film, and her clothes she is wearing fades off for a few seconds. It’s an unexplainable scene so you will really have to watch it for yourself.

Another one of the films alarming moments is when we see one of the characters cut hand having ants crawl out from it. Once more, explanation is none and it’s another part of the gruesome imagery the film shows. Last but not least, the other weird thing is when the man –the very one who felt that woman’s breasts- pulls 2 pianos, a carcass of a donkey and 2 priests (who are very confused). It all doesn’t make sense which is probably why the film is so renowned and it’s something to see before you die.
The confused priests.
 Overall:
It still manages to make people cringe today and people are still discovering this beholding it’s wondrous and strange power. The film fully has no plot purpose, but today it is considered a short masterpiece. Although Buñuel subverts every expectation that a viewer might bring to the film (time moves arbitrarily forward and backward, characters vanish and reappear, and the action remains stubbornly illegible), the images he uses to convey his deeper meanings remain passionate, resonant, and alarmingly, weirdly sexual to this day. The best way to put this film is an oddity, but a darn good oddity at that. It’s easily the weirdest of any silent film of that time because of its surreal imagery, empty plot and alarming tone. Although many consider it a masterpiece, and it is to an extent, the 15 minute short film does not surpass amazement so my rating stays at a firm 8.2/10.

My Rating: 8/10

3 comments:

  1. Buñuel is tops in our book!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Honestly, I feel that critics and film historians overrate this because of the collaboration. It's just a series of unrelated images. It's not a movie at all. We might as well be watching a slide show, albeit one put together by two famous people.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree with that, but I give it this rating for it's surrealism.

    ReplyDelete

 

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