It shows unformed young men starting from similar places, but taking different roads because of their characters. Garcia Lorca, who is honest with himself about his love for another man, finds real love eventually with a woman, his classmate Margarita (). Dali, who presents almost as a transvestite, denies all feelings, and like many puritans, ends as a voluptuary. Bunuel, the most gifted of all, ends as all good film directors do, consumed by his work. I am fond of his practical approach to matters. Warned that angry mobs might storm the screen at the Paris premiere of "Un Chien Andalou," he filled his pockets with stones to throw at them.
While looking at "Un Chien Andalou," it is useful to look with equal attention at ourselves as we watch the movie. We assume it is the "story" of the people in the film -- these men, these women, these events. But what if the people are not protagonists but merely models -- simply actors hired to represent people performing certain actions? We know that the car at the auto show does not belong to (and was not designed or built by) the model in the bathing suit who points to it. Bunuel might argue that his actors have a similar relationship to the events surrounding them.
"Un Chien Andalou" is a curtain-raiser: In a way, he was never unfaithful to it. A movie like this is a tonic. It assaults old and unconscious habits of moviegoing. It is disturbing, frustrating, maddening. It seems without purpose (and yet how much purpose, really, is there in seeing most of the movies we attend?). There is wry humor in it, and a cheerful willingness to offend. Most members of today's audiences are not offended, and maybe that means the surrealists won their revolution: They demonstrated that art (and life) need not follow obediently within narrow restrictions that have been decreed since time immemorial. And that in a film that is alive and not mummified by convention, you never know what you might see when you look out the window.
"Un Chien Andalou" was one of the first handmade films--movies made by their creators on a shoestring budget, without studio financing. It is an ancestor of the works of and today's independent digital movies. Bunuel (1900-1983), a Spaniard lured to Paris by vague dreams of becoming an artist, found employment in the film industry, learned on the job, was fired for insulting the great director and drifted into the orbit of the surrealists.
The scandal of "Un Chien Andalou" has become one of the legends of the surrealists. At the first screening, Bunuel claimed, he stood behind the screen with his pockets filled with stones, "to throw at the audience in case of disaster." Others do not remember the stones, but Bunuel's memories were sometimes a vivid rewrite of life. When he and his friends first saw Sergei Eisenstein's revolutionary Soviet film "Battleship Potemkin," he claimed, they left the theater and immediately began tearing up the street stones to build barricades. True?
It is useful to remember that "Un Chien Andalou" was made not by the Bunuel and Dali that we see as crumbling old men in photographs, but by headstrong young men in their 20s, intoxicated by the freedom of Paris during the decade of the Lost Generation. There is a buried connection between the surrealists and the Sex Pistols, Bunuel and , Dali and Damien Hirst (the artist who exhibited half a lamb in a cube of plastic). "Although the surrealists didn't consider themselves terrorists," Bunuel wrote in his autobiography, "they were constantly fighting a society they despised. Their principal weapon wasn't guns, of course; it was scandal."
His first film, written in collaboration with the notorious surrealist artist Salvador Dali, was "Un Chien Andalou" (1928). Neither the title ("an Andalusian dog") nor anything else in the film was intended to make sense. It remains the most famous short film ever made, and anyone halfway interested in the cinema sees it sooner or later, usually several times.
was every part as awesome, strange, controversial and brilliant as Dali was. These dudes were made for each other. When it came time for these guys to make a film literally about nothing (perhaps the ancestral, pre-imaginings of Seinfeld?), they did just that. This film is straight up weird, and the best part about it, for me, is that it was meant to be. If this was made by two people who seriously wanted to make a movie with a profoundly deep message and this is what they made, those guys would be completely insane. Un Chien Andalou, however, was made specifically to shock and disturb and poke fun of the French bourgeoisie, who naturally loved it. Driven by mash-ups of gross/nonsensical ideas between the two, there is no narrative, no Point A to B, no climax or character resolution; it’s simply a string of incidents put together in roughly 15 minutes and given to the world, and I could not be any happier with how wonderfully strange it is. Your 25- or 50-Year Anniversaries don’t matter here, because this thing is always as important, year after year. I don’t want to talk to you about the possible themes and motifs and lighting in the film, because to me it is not meant for that. It is simply meant to marvel at and sometimes, though not as often as I’d like, that can be quite spectacularly enough. So, without further ado, Un Chien Andalou.