Monday, March 28, 2011

Film Masters Spotlight - Bunuel & Dali's "Un Chien Andalou" - Walking the Weird Side

You have to be in a certain frame of mind to sit through Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali’s 1929 surrealistic masterpiece, “Un Chien Andalou” which is better untranslated (“Andalusian Dog”) to grasp the grandeur of such avant garde film making. It is filled with aberrant readings and crazy anticpations, as was advised prior to my viewing a couple of years ago. But we earlier promised, we had to do a repeat viewing so we can feature this classic. More than anything, this is the Experimental Film in its purest, unadulterated form. (Not something as predictably cheap, trashy and predictable as "Masikip sa Tatlo".)

The film is a series of unorthodox images that feature a pair of lovers who provocatively opens a scene with the man slicing his girlfriend’s left eyeball with a razor blade. Then in twisted chronological fashion, it jumps 8 years later where the same guy hits a curb of the road while biking. The lady from the window comes down to gather him, then like a dream, he is shown gazing at his hand with dark giant ants scurrying around. The camera then pans succesively at a lady’s armpit then the blades of a flower. These images come in steady succession, each one with discordant narrative from the next.

One of the most provocative is the guy mashing the girl’s breasts (this, after all was 1929). When she runs for cover, he suddenly finds a pair of ropes and starts hauling them off until we see that these were attached to a piano with dead donkeys on top and two Jewish men behind the piano.

In the surreal world, as in abstract art (Dali’s realm), it’s the viewer who makes the meaning, wading through aesthetic pretentions. Cinema, after all, is a halfway state between films and dreams; a superimposition of dreams and everyday reality. In dreams, narrative coherence isn’t always expected or achieved. This is the basis from which surrealists have embraced cinema as a medium of expression.

Salvador Dali was 25, while Luis Bunuel was 29 when they received a cash gift from Bunuel’s mother. This prompted them to make a 16 minute film that opened all doors to the irrational; one that followed the logic of dreams. It took them a fortnight to shoot the scenes. When they finally premiered it in Paris, they received massive critical acclaim. The film then run for 8 months!

The title, “Andalusian Dogs” is supposedly the title of an anthology of unpublished poems of Salvador Dali, but this – ambiguous and not really found within the tale – found itself as title to one of the most spell-binding masterpiece on surrealism.

It isn’t everyday that you get to watch such provocative images bunched up in 16 minutes of black and white montage. Whether this is appreciated easily by any audience is debatable, but you will never forget the images. They get stuck in your mind for a while. I am not either if that’s a good thing. These artists are too preoccupied by death, sin, guilt, mutilation, fetishism and decay. Just maybe when we've encountered them, we will be adept at staying away from such grey-and-dark matters.

Salvador Dali (left) and Robert Pattinson playing Dali in "Little Ashes" (right).

Director Luis Bunuel

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