Sunday, 19 August 2012

Un Chien Andalou (1928)

Den Andalusiske Hund
While I was watching this one I was wondering, what on Earth am I going to write about it? I am still not sure.

“Un Chien Andalou” is a surrealistic short film by Salvador Dali and Louis Bunuel from 1928. It is widely recognized as a breakthrough “movie” for surrealistic art and has won tons of acclaim. With a running time around 15 minutes it is quick enough to get through, so not much is wasted by seeing it. I have been through it a number of times but I am still not much smarter.

Being surrealistic means that it does not make much sense in a direct literal way. Instead it tells a story through symbols and metaphors and creates images and tableaus which are supposed to carry a meaning. Or maybe not. And that is why I actually like this sort of movies.

While on the one hand these pieces are awfully clever made and begs a highbrow interpretation I also sense children behind it who like to provoke and tease us and lead us in the wrong direction. This feeling is more pronounced in the later (and better) “L’Age D’Or”, but it is still, at least for me, a very integral part of seeing it.

Even a cursory foray into the works of Dali will tell you that the playing aspect is everywhere in what he does, so much that it often borders Dadaism, yet there is always a meaning behind it. You just have to twist your mind in strange directions to get it.

I am not enough familiar with Bunuel yet, but according to what I have found about him and seen from him he is a provocateur supreme. The later “Las Hurdes” movie twists facts and constructs realities to such an extent that the format of documentary becomes provo-art serving an artistic (and probably political) agenda.

I still do not understand “Un Chien Andalou”. Oh, there are plenty of interpretations out there, but somehow it ruins the fun of seeing it having some precooked interpretation as a crutch. I prefer to be disgusted by the eye that is cut open, to laugh at the horses and priests being dragged by the young man trying to reach the woman and wonder at the point of the intertitles saying “8 years later” or 16 years before”.  I do get that what we see is a visualization of subconscious feelings, trauma and issues that the woman and the man are carrying with them as if watching their relationship in some seventh dimension where we get images for what goes through their minds, but I like to be left guessing at the actual meaning and the tingling suspicion that they are pulling my leg.

In this way “Un Chien Andalou” becomes a very personal experience, like watching art in a museum. I should mention here that when my wife and I visit art museums (which we frequently do) we always aim for video art, installations and photography for the very same reasons that I like “Un Chien Andalou”. We are not high-brow about. In fact we rarely “get it”. But it tickles your brain and is also amusing in a way often missed by a more scholarly approach.

After all I did find something to say about “Un Chien Andalou” without really saying anything and in some odd way that feels very appropriate for this particular movie.


  1. Wow, what a great review. This is such a bizarre movie, but you said some really great stuff about it - Dali vs Dadaism, the idea of playing, how what we're seeing is feelings... AWESOME WRITEUP!!!!!

  2. I think the mistake most people make with this is in trying to understand it at all. There isn't anything to understand. It's simply a collection of images that Dali and Bunuel put together. The human mind wants things to make sense, though, so people have been searching for meaning in it ever since. I honestly think that if the two names attached to this were "Smith and Jones" instead of "Dali and Bunuel" this film would have been forgotten about long ago.

    1. Well, that is exactly what I mean. There may be something they are telling or they may be bullshitting us. And either way I am quite content. I like that weird way of thinking. The annoying video-art pieces are those without that glint in the eye, who wants so badly to be taken serious.

  3. Not a fan. As a matter of fact, it got my worst rating: ;(((

    I just can't get into films like this. I know some people think you miss something when you spend the entire 16 minutes trying to figure out what Bunuel was trying to do, but I just can't turn my mind off when chaos is assailing it.

    1. I think the best way is to throw the head away and stop analyzing it. It is quite amusing that way, though I liked L'Age D'Or better.