Sunday, July 11, 2010

Un Chien Andalou - Luis Bunuel (1929)

Un Chien Andalou is a sixteen minute silent surrealist short film produced in France by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. Its title means "An Andalusian Dog", but it is normally released under its original French title in the English-speaking world. It was Dali's first film and was initially released in 1929 to a limited showing in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months.[1] It is one of the best-known surrealist films of the avant-garde movement of the 1920s.

The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial "once upon a time" to "eight years later" without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.

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.
The subsequent title card reads "eight years later". A slim young man, (Pierre Batcheff), bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun's habit and a locked box with a strap around his neck. A cut occurs to the young woman from the first scene, who has been reading anxiously in a sparingly-furnished upstairs apartment, and she hears the young man approaching on his bicycle. She promptly throws aside the book she was reading to look out the window. She emerges from the building and attempts to revive the young man after witnessing him collapse from the bicycle.
Later, the young woman assembles pieces of the young man's clothing on a bed in the upstairs room, and seemingly through concentrating on the clothing causes the young man to appear near the door. The young man and the young woman stare at his hand, which has a hole in the palm from which ants emerge. A slow transition occurs focusing on the armpit hair of an unknown figure and a sea urchin at a sandy location. An androgynous young woman appears in the street below the apartment, poking at a severed hand with a cane while surrounded by an angry crowd and police.
The crowd clears when the police place the hand in the box previously carried by the young man, and the androgynous young woman contemplates something happily while standing perilously in the middle of the now busy street, clutching the box. She is then run over by a car and a few bystanders gather around her. The young man and the young woman watch these events unfold from the apartment window. The young man seems to take sadistic pleasure in the androgynous young woman's danger and subsequent death, and as he gestures at the shocked young woman in the room with him, he leers at her and grasps her bosom. The young woman resists him at first, but then allows him to touch her as he imagines her nude from the front and the rear. The young woman pushes him away as he drifts off and attempts to escape by running to the other side of the room. The young man corners her as she reaches for a racket in self-defense, but he suddenly picks up two ropes and drags two grand pianos containing dead and rotting donkeys, stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, and two rather bewildered priests (played by Jaume Miravitlles and Salvador Dalí) who are attached by ropes. As he is unable to move, the young woman escapes the room. She finds the young man in the next room, dressed in his nun's garb in the bed.

The subsequent title card reads "around three in the morning". The young man is roused from his bed by the sound of a doorbell (represented visually by a martini shaker being shaken by a set of arms through two holes in a wall). The young woman goes to answer the door and does not return. Another young man dressed in lighter clothing (also played by Pierre Batcheff) angrily arrives in the apartment, possibly to punish the other young man for his lecherous actions against the young woman. The second young man forces the first one to throw away his nun's clothing and then makes him stand against a wall.
The subsequent title card reads "Sixteen years earlier". We see the second young man from the front for the first time as he admires the art supplies and books on the table near the wall and forces the first young man to hold two of the books as he stares at the wall. The first young man eventually shoots the second young man when the books abruptly turn into pistols. The second young man dies and swipes at a nude figure in a meadow, and a group of men carry his corpse away as the figure suddenly disappears into thin air.
The young woman comes into the apartment to possibly confront the first young man and sees a death head moth. The first young man sneers at her as she retreats and wipes his mouth off his face with his hand. Subsequently the first young man makes the young woman's armpit hair attach itself to where his mouth would be on his face through gestures. The young woman looks at the first young man with disgust, and leaves the apartment sticking her tongue out at him.
As she exits her apartment, the street is replaced by a coastal beach, where the young woman meets a third man who she walks with arm in arm. He shows her the time and his watch and they walk near the rocks, where they find the remnants of the first young man's nun's clothing and the box. They seem to walk away clutching each other happily and make romantic gestures in a long tracking shot. However, the film abruptly cuts to the final shot with a title card reading "In Spring", showing the couple buried in sand up to their shoulders, presumably dead after the unknown events of the opening scene, possibly bringing the film full-circle.

16 MIN

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