Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Un Chien Andalou (an Andalusian dog)

*1929 *15 minutes * silent *Bunuel and Salvador Dali, directors *

A dangerous looking character (Bunuel himself) is sharpening his razor. Quite cheerfully, a pretty young girl allows him to neatly splice her eye with the sharpened instrument. As the transparent jelly comes out (an animal's eye was used for this notorious shot) a sliver of a cloud wafts across a full moon.

Eight years later. A man in a nun's habit pedals furiously down a deserted avenue. He falls unconscious below the window of the girl who rushes down to embrace him. She resurrects him by an act of mental concentration. Below in the street, a dignified girl toys a dismembered hand with a walking stick, and the crowd gathers around is held at bay by the police. She stands in a graceful pose in the middle of the street and is mowed down by a passing vehicle, as the man in the window observes her demise gleefully. As the man in the window makes insistent advances to the girl, she defends herself with a tennis racket. What is he to do except drag a piano sandwiching a dead donkey (or is it two) along with the corpses of two priests. As he escapes from the room, the girl has his arm wedged in the closing door, and a stream of ants emerges from a hole in his hand.

Dreams? There is no narrative (maybe just the hint of coherence) and nothing to interpret. Interpretation, in fact would be a violation of the very purpose. This is a pure cinema--a riveting flow of images. No plot to follow, no taxing of the mind. You are just meant to suspend the analytic processes and let the macabre magic take hold. They are the outpourings of the buried layers of the mind, the stuff of dreams, the forces of our fears, desires and sorrows.

This is a gem of fifteen minutes, a great size for a great film. It compresses a vast reservoir of cinematic creativity into it's span. A memorable movie.

8 comments:

Literary Dreamer said...

Couldn't have said it better myself. When one of the museums in Ueno (Japan) hosted a Salvador Dali exhibit while I was there, they showed this film as part of that exhibit. Still one of the most memorable artist exhibits I've been to, and a memorable film.

S. M. Rana said...

@LD
Everything should be fifteen minutes. What an ideal span of time!

Ronak M Soni said...

I watched it ladt night, tries to comment, couldn't, watched it again just now, and still can't comment.
Is it a tribute or an insult to Bunuel that his film actually seems less random than much of cinema?
Whatever, it's beautiful.

S M Rana said...

@Ronak: Yes. Seems less arbitrary, being more like poetry than prose. Most films are like prose in the sense they need to be sewed up and sqeezed to cater to plot expectations.

vivek said...

This is one of those films that led many a wannabe into thinking great films can be made with random shots. I am amazed at how watchabe this is.

S. M. Rana said...

@Vivek: An obvious reason is the length. I have the next one, "L'age d'or", which is an hour, and similar lines, lined.

vivek said...

I've seen 3-minute shorts of the "experimental" variety. They cannot be sat through. This is something else.

S M Rana said...

Of course. This is certainly haunting and finds a permanent place for itself in one's mind.