Un Chien Andalou (1929)

un chen

The Scoop: 1929 NR, Directed by Luis Bunuel and starring Simone Mareuil, Pierre Batcheff and Salvador Dali

Tagline: No tagline.

Summary Capsule: A man and a woman do various violent, creepy, or just plain odd things for seventeen minutes, than it ends. Thankfully.

Al’s rating: Why did Dali make this movie? I don’t know. Probably for the same reason he turned a pomegranate into a tiger. Probably for the same reason he wore that ridiculous mustache. BECAUSE HE WAS A FRIGGIN’ NUTJOB.

Al’s review: People say lots of movies don’t make sense. They say it about movies that are a little strange, like Akira, or movies that were obviously rushed or chopped to bits in the editing room, like Battlefield: Earth or LXG. More often than not, though, that statement is a hyperbole — things do make sense, they’re just being poorly conveyed, poorly translated, or were poorly thought out.

But when I say that Un Chien Andalou does not make sense, understand that I do not mean any of those things. In its entire seventeen-minute running time, Un Chien Andalou does not manage to make one single lick of sense. None. A total lack of sense. Utter senselessness. In fact, what’s the opposite of sense? Anti-sense? Anti-sense. This film makes anti-sense.

Then you look at the credits and see that it was written by Salvador Dali, so you go “Ohhhhh…” as if the anti-sense has simply gone away or become a piece of art because the screenwriter is famous. It hasn’t. Actually, in my mind, the fact that the ‘melting clocks’ guy was allowed to make a movie only increases the anti-sense. Don’t spread your creepy elephant-swans into my milieu, buddy! Stick to painting!

Of course, were this film filled with melting clocks and elephant-swans, I would find myself far less utterly boondoggled than I am right now. We instead are treated to rotting donkey heads, ants crawling out of a hole in a man’s palm, and some guy pulling two baby grand pianos behind him with the tablets of the Ten Commandments fixed on top and two priests tied to the back. And that’s just one scene. There’s still a whole other fifteen minutes of running time to throw in severed hands and sexual assaults and casual strolls on the beach. Dali and director Luis Bunuel (who is apparently also really famous) decided to entirely forgo plot, character, or dialogue in Un Chien Andalou and started to simply string together images in an attempt to do, uh, whatever it is surrealists were always attempting to do. I never figured that out myself.

Even surrounded by modern exhibitionist junk like Showgirls and Hostel, a lot of Un Chien Andalou’s shock value is remarkably intact. Part of it, for me, is just the surprise of seeing some of what they put onscreen, knowing that the movie is from nearly eighty years ago. However, an even larger part, I think, is due to the total isolation of one event from the next. Because there’s no plot and no dialogue, there’s no context. Without a context, it’s not possible to know what to expect. Since you don’t know what to expect, when the man onscreen suddenly decides to pop a woman’s eyeball with a straight razor, it’s totally out of the blue and you’re likely left with your jaw hanging open.

So, yeah, Un Chien Andalou doesn’t make any sense. I guess it’s not supposed to. I’m actually pretty convinced that the motto of this film must have been “Y’know, why not?” Or possibly “Eat your heart out, David Lynch.” According to my Netflix slipcase, Dali and Buenuel were looking to raise “more than a few eyebrows” with their experimental film. Shudder-inducing violence, gratuitous nudity, and pointless murder all in one film that is less than a half-hour long and was released before “the talkies” took over showbusiness? My eyebrows are raised. Now, please, make it stop.

Me, at about the fifteen-minute mark.

Intermission!

  • Why even bother telling us we’re watching flashbacks, guys? We’re not following your movie anyway.
  • A Death’s Head Moth! It puts the lotion on its skin! It does this whenever it’s told!
  • Dali himself is one of the priests being dragged with the piano.
  • So… the guy makes his mouth disappear which gets the woman so angry that she begins picking her armpit? I hate surrealism.
  • In 1960, a soundtrack was added to this film at the direction of Luis Buñuel. He used the same music which was played (using phonograph records) at the 1929 screenings – extracts from “Liebestod” from Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and two Argentinian tangos.
  • During his 1976 tour, David Bowie played Un Chien Andelou as his opening act. (Thanks TheOogieBoogieMan!)

Groovy Quotes

    Holy silent film, Batman! There’s no dialogue at all!

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The City of Lost Children
  • Blue Velvet
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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