Tuesday, September 24, 2013

#1,135. Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Directed By: Luis Buñuel

Starring: Pierre Batcheff, Simone Mareuil, Luis Buñuel

Trivia: David Bowie began every concert in his 1976 "Station to Station" tour by showing this film

Give me two hours a day of activity, and I’ll take the other twenty-two in dreams

The above quote has been attributed to director Luis Buñuel, who may have been thinking of his 1929 short, Un Chien Andalou (which translates to An Andalusian Dog) when he said it. Made in collaboration with Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou has been hailed as a surrealist masterpiece, and is one of the silent era’s most bizarre films.

With a running time of only 16 minutes, Un Chien Andalou abandons narrative in favor of imagery that will both shock and amaze. Its most famous scene is undoubtedly the one where a woman’s eyeball is sliced open with a straight razor (according to Buñuel, the eye of a dead calf stood in for the human one), but there are other memorable moments as well. In an early sequence, a bicycle courier (Pierre Batcheff), who had fallen and was helped by a young woman (Simone Mareuil), is looking at a hole in the palm of his hand, from which dozens of ants are pouring out. The action then switches to a busy sidewalk, where a crowd gathers around a severed hand that’s lying in the street. The hand is placed into a box by a policeman and given to a young lady, who stands in the middle of the road, staring at it, until she’s struck and killed by a car. With scenes featuring everything from female nudity to grand pianos that have dead donkeys laying on top of them, Un Chien Andalou lives up to its reputation as an incredibly strange motion picture.

Dream... nightmare… genius… insanity; these words, and more besides, have been used to describe Un Chien Andalou. Over the years, many have tried to decipher its meaning, with themes ranging from religion to love, even life and death itself, offered as possible explanations. But one thing remains certain: anyone who’s seen Un Chien Andalou will never forget it.

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