DVD Reviews

DVD Review – Un Chien Andalou (1929)

2013 marks the 30 year anniversary of the death of Spanish director Luis Bunuel. A unique film maker who lead the avant-garde surrealist movement with his work with the moving image.  While in education he became very close with surrealist painter Salvador Dali who he would later work with to make one of the most respected short films of the surrealist movement called Un Chien Andalou, translated as ‘An Andalusian Dog’. Don’t be fooled by its romantic title which falsely promises the tale of a Spanish pooch, what lies within is something quite different; a hand crawling in ants, a woman having her eyeball sliced open and a man dressed as a nun riding a bike. It is definitely the work of two avant-garde artists and has been persistently studied by academics since its creation in 1929. Chiming in at only 16 minutes long, it certainly packs a punch and is not for the faint hearted.

A consistent feature of the film is a pattern of black and white stripes which appears in almost every scene, whether it be on some clothing or an object in a room or furniture. It was used by Bunuel as a device for creating some sort of solidarity and consistency throughout the film for the sake of the audience. Bunuel also used a series of title cards stating a progression of time, however these jump around from ‘eight years later’ to ‘around three in the morning’ to ‘sixteen years later’ which in itself is confusing. This kind of narrative structure, where an audience is shown a sequence of images loosely linked together was known as ‘dream logic’ and was favoured by surrealists at the time.

 Time frames and narratives aside, there are reasons why this film is so famous, the number one reason probably being the infamous eyeball scene. At the beginning of the film, we see a man sharpening a cut throat knife while gazing at the moon. A woman is sitting looking straight into the camera and the man takes the knife, pulls open her eyelid and brazenly slices her eyeball in half, spilling all kinds of horrible fluid on to her cheek. For years people speculate how Bunuel and Dali constructed this scene arguing about where the eyeball came from, but in 1975 Bunuel came out with the truth and said it was the eye of a baby calf and he bleached the fur of the calf so much that it would look like human skin. He certainly did a good job of making this look convincing, even now almost 90 years on it looks real and is probably just as harrowing as the day it was premiered. 

As famous as this scene may be, it is probably not the weirdest thing you’ll see in Un Chien Andalou. How about a man pulling on some ropes with the tablets of the Ten Commandments attached? What if the ropes were also attached to two priests being dragged along the floor? Better still, what if they were then attached to a piano with a dead donkey laying on it? Yes, this all happens. Bunuel and Dali were certainly on a roll when they came up with that little sequence of events.  Overlapping frames and bizarre images makes Un Chien Andalou interesting viewing, whether you like it or not, you certainly won’t see anything else like it. Unique in name and nature and edited in Luis Bunuel’s kitchen, he deserves a round of applause for creating such an unforgettable film which has gone down in film and art history.

Un Chien Andalou can be found in the Information Store DVD Zone at 791.430944. It comes in a box with another film by Dali and Bunuel called L’Age D’or. Maybe you could give that one a try too!

Further Reading in The Information Store

Un Chien Andalou (book) – Book Zone – 791.4372
Belle du Jour by Luis Bunuel – DVD Zone – 791.430944
Salvador Dali 1904-1989 by Gilles Neret – Book Zone – 759.6

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