Oh yeah, you know Un Chien Andalou (1929). Rather, you probably just know that one shot, the iconic eyeball slicing scene. It is surprising how many people are so aware of that one shot, without ever having checked out the 16 minute entirety of Luis Bunuel’s surreal and absurd avant-garde classic.
As for the eye slicing, it is rightly iconic. It is also uncompromising. Even if you are well conditioned to contemporary gore it is an almost unwatchable shot. Aside from that, the film also features the weirdest maguffin you are ever likely to come across, ants flowing out of stigmata, too many dead animals for my liking and a wonderful choice of soundtrack that is both bawdy and drives the film along. I like avant-garde cinema, but for me, 16 minutes is a little long. I prefer a good 2 minute blast of Man Ray imagery. Stretching the form over this kind of length leaves me searching for meaning a little too much. Having said that, the images do link together so well in this film through plentiful match shots and other editing techniques, that for the most part you will not find yourself too bogged down.
Obviously with a surrealist, avant-garde film like this, you are never really going to know what in the world is going on. But for a film in this subgenre to be effective, at least for me personally, it must first look cool, and secondly have some sort of binding theme. This film nails it on the first. The repeated image of the ants festering around a stigmata is exceptional and probably deserves to be just as iconic as the eyeball slice and there are numerous moments when you have no idea what you are watching, but you know it looks very cool. On the second measure, Un Chien Andalou succeeds for the most part I guess. Well there are a lot of themes there. They may not be cohesive as such, but Bunuel and Dali are throwing some interesting ideas out there. Not that they all stick or even that I picked up on them all. For me though, the film was concerned with a huge amount of things including male/female relations, religion (the folly thereof?), the act of writing and creation of any art (and the investment of one’s person in doing so), the nature of time as there are temporal folds and creases and reincarnation. So basically, plenty to assault you over the course of 16 minutes.
It is easy to see why Un Chien Andalou is perhaps the most famous avant-garde film of all time. It’s pretty challenging to sit through its short running time, but for the most part is a worthwhile and rewarding experience, especially for anyone who wishes to be a student of film history. You can check the film out here:
Verdict: Stubby of Reschs
2014 Progress: 14/101