Un Chien Andalou: More Than Meets The Eye

Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) is a fifteen minute visual assault.  Seeing it for the first time is like bing punched in the gut.  Eyes being cut, severed hands poked in the middle of the street, and young men literally burdened with the weight of the world are presented, without any context. Furthermore, repeated viewings add onnly little coherence to the chaos.  That is precisely what makes Un Chien Andalou so exhilarating.

Luis Buñuel was not the first filmmaker to bring surrealism to the screen.  Hans Richter, for instance, made Ghosts Before Breakfast in 1928, a year before Un Chien Andalou was released.  However, Buñuel brought in the undisputed king of surrealism, Salvador Dali, and their collaboration is not only a highlight of their careers, but a foreshadowing of the rest of their oeuvres.  The way the normal and abnormal collide are indicative of Dali’s paintings, whereas the confusion and anarchy that love brings are the trademarks of later Buñuel works, such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and That Obscure Object Of Desire.

Un Chien Anadlou is a film with an infamous beginning and several disjointed endings.  In fact, the very narrative is skewed with title cards such as “Eight Years Later” and “Sixteen Years Earlier”.  You don’t even know which male character is which, unless you refer to each as “the shooter” and “the victim”.  And even then, every bit of exposition makes you second guess which came before and will come after it.

To take any of this seriously would be missing the point, which is what Buñuel and Dali are trying to say about the absurdity of love.  By the time Spring, the season most connected with love, arrives, the male and female protagonist are finally joined together, devoid of chaos, but also devoid of life.  The best way to enjoy Un Chien Andalou is to dive in head first and succumb to the visceral, the bizarre, and, yes, the eye-cutting.

By Tom Keiser

Un Chien Andalou screens with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) tonight
July 9th, 7:30pm
AxD Gallery / 265 South 10th Street / Philadelphia, PA
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