Un Chien Andalou (AKA: An Andalusian Dog) – 1929
Director – Luis Bunuel
Conceived by surrealist auteurs Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou is your standard story about a guy, posing as a nun gets hit by a car while a couple watches from a window. And goes on to tread even more familiar ground when after witnessing the accident, the man spends great amounts of time and energy trying to knead and massage the womans breasts and butt while she tries to fight him off. Not one to take no for an answer, he starts leaking ants from the hole in his hand, that is, until he loses his arm in their skirmish. And of course who can forget the straight razor cutting woman’s eye sequence which even by this point was extremely clichéd.
All joking aside, Bunuel and Dali managed to construct a piece of film that is just as shocking and talked about today as it was back in 1929. While it is famous for the notoriety of its authors, the film itself is infamous today thanks to the aforementioned eye cutting scene. My teacher in film school introduced the film, explained the intention, and then had to leave the room before showing it because of the ability of that image to upset. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth watching just once, if only to say that you did it. The fact is, it would be hard to find more indelible imagery throughout the history of film than is found in the 20 minute run time of this one film, and while it has a statement, it is not one that is easy to discern from watching the film.
Strictly speaking, the narrative is meant to confound the brain. It was conceived, purposefully, to seem fleeting and dream-like. Dali and Bunuel practiced sleep deprivation in order to prepare themselves for the conception and script-writing phases of the film. The imagery is meant to horrify while at the same time seem like it should make sense when it doesn’t. This feeling of connectivity through the course of the film is what ties the images together. Themes and undertones were the goal, not story and character.
Not shockingly, the film got mixed reception at its release, receiving positive marks from those in the art world, and negative ones from those not familiar with surrealism or (then) modern artistic expression. Despite the mixed reception, Un Chien Andalou stood out as a masterwork of editing, composition, and pacing. It is interesting to note, that it stands out as being far creepier and more unsettling than most horror or thriller movies released since.
While not for everyone, Un Chien Andalou, is definitely an important benchmark of cinema, as well as a springboard into the works of directors as diverse as David Lynch, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Tim Burton. It definitely deserves it’s place on this list!
“Bitch got her eye cut!” – Ashley