Today I watched Un Chien Andalou, a short film directed by Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali in 1929. Just the fact that Dali directed the film should cue you into what a strange 15 minutes you will have when you watch it. Bunuel also directed another movie watched for this project and reviewed earlier, Belle du Jour. The film isn't really a real movie in any sense that we are used to. It is like a 15 minute dream, possibly the sort you might have under the effects of some more...enlightening substances. None of it makes any real sense, since there isn't a real plot. The movie jumps around from the present time to years later and to the past with no real explanation. We are used to seeing a story about characters, but that isn't really what is happening here. There are actors, but I'm not quite sure what they are portraying. Many, many people have tried to analyze this short, to try to fashion a story out of all of these disjointed images, but in the end, I can only go with what the directors proclaimed for years - that there is no meaning. It is just images, for the sake of shocking the viewer, and, well, because, that's why.
The images in this film are strange. Some are still disturbing - the famous opening scene shows a women's eye being cut open with a razor blade. Others are simply strange - a man in a nun's costume rides a bike. A man picks up ropes and pulls two pianos with dead donkeys on them, and two confused priests hanging on. His hand has a hole in it that ants crawl in and out of. It isn't really important why, like the things we see in the best dreams that we have. Ebert mentions in his essay that none of the actions are linked or related in any way, according to Bunuel. He gives an example of this, writing, "...we assume that the man pulls the pianos (with the priests, dead donkeys, etc) across the room because his sexual advance has been rebuffed by the woman with the tennis racket. But Bunuel might argue the events have no connection -- the man's advance is rejected, and then, in an absolutely unrelated action, he picks up the ropes and starts to pull the pianos" (The Great Movies, 469). This is a pretty difficult concept to grasp, but it does give you a little more of a glimpse into the strange world of Bunuel, of his obsession with nonsense and dreams.
I really, really love this movie. I've seen it several times and I'm always excited to watch it. I really love things like this. I am obsessed with my own dreams. I feel so energized when I have a strange one that I can remember vividly. I think about them for days, write them down, reply them in my head when I get bored. It's so fascinating that we can create such fantastically odd images in our sleep. I actually have this series of vivid dreams. They aren't repetitive, but the people in my dreams are aware of what they did in previous dreams. It's very cool, and like a total dork, I get excited when I wake up and realize I just saw a continuation in whatever strange story my brain is firing off at night. You can see why I like surrealism and Bunuel so much! If you like Dali or have any degree of dream obsession, this short is perfect for you. But if you aren't a fan of surrealism, you might not really love this. Which is fine, it seems pointless (even to me, to some extent) to sit down and watch a series of weird and unrelated images. But as Ebert points out of the essay, "and yet how much purpose, really, is there in seeing most of the movies we attend?" (The Great Movies, 470)
Have any of you seen Un Chien Andalou? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Un Chien Andalou
Watch it on YouTube
(it's also streaming on Netflix right now)