Un Chien Andalou (1929)

casey what

brooke Well, it was a film made by surrealists at the height of surrealism

casey there was a hand
with ants
and boob grabbing

brooke don’t forget the butt grabbing

casey and dead cows

brooke I think those were dead mules?

casey This is what happens when you teach kids that they’re special and that all their ideas are good

brooke Well… I thought Un Chien Andalou was awesome

casey I actually kind of did too
what an odd film. Like, is there even a point trying to recap it?

brooke Well, the usual recap doesn’t work because there’s no real plot, but I can still break it down

brooke So, despite the title, “An Andalusian Dog”, there are zero dogs in this 20 minute silent film.
It’s sort of an experimental stream of consciousness that jumps back and forth in time and between a couple of different characters. What came out of the minds of director Luis Buñuel and collaborator Salvador Dalí (yes, that Salvador Dalí) is what made it onto the screen. It’s not unlike a dream in that whatever you can think of might happen. Ants crawl out of a man’s hand. A woman’s eye is cut open. The man, after witnessing a tragic car crash, becomes a sexual assailant. Anything goes. There’s no beginning, middle, or end; it’s all sort of dumped onscreen.

casey It’s very much like watching a dream, with the disturbing, the mundane, and the weird all occurring very matter-of-factly with only the loosest connections. According to Wikipedia, the point was to “shock and insult the intellectual bourgeoisie.” Apparently it didn’t work, but it seems like a worthwhile goal, I guess.

brooke I think so. Not to mention, Ebert suggested that this is basically the beginning of independent low-budget film, so major props to Buñuel (and Dalí) for that.

casey And jaunty music, too!

brooke Catchy old French music, man

casey I’ll be humming it tomorrow! You know more about Dalí and surrealism than me. Tell me why stuff like this matters on an artistic level.

brooke For starters, Dalí had kind of an odd life. He was born 9 months after the death of his older brother, also named Salvador, and when he was 5 his parents told him he was a reincarnation of his brother. So, chew on that for a minute.
He experimented with cubism in art school but got kicked out, I believe for a prank, and ended up moving to Paris from Madrid. It just so happened that surrealism was a pretty new thing when he started painting. The whole idea was to bring together dreams and reality. The surrealists liked Freud’s free association ideas and didn’t think anything was too crazy.
I think that’s sort of the point of the movie. It’s rejecting plot and embracing a lot of weirdness that you normally wouldn’t see on film, then or now.

casey Cool. Well.
Mission accomplished.

brooke Yes.
Can we talk about the effects?

casey Where to begin? The armpit hair mouth? The eye getting sliced open? The aforementioned ANT HAND

brooke I mean, I was really impressed at all of them
this is a low budget film from the 20s, and the effects are fairly convincing for the most part
(except for maybe the boobs turning into a butt)

casey Probably a lot of directors would have a hard time pulling off the boob-butt transformation, even today. I agree, the effects were pretty neat. Especially the ant hand.

brooke your obsession with the ant hand is entertaining

casey it was my favorite part

brooke I really liked the eye-slicing myself
I mean, it happens like 40 seconds in and is the easiest way to convey to the audience: this shiz is gonna get weird
I looked it up; apparently they used a calf’s eye for the effect
it looked really good

casey So I think we can agree, our readers need to see this movie. Especially since it’ll only take slightly longer than reading this recap.

brooke True. And it’s an easy one to watch since it’s just sitting on YouTube
Also, there is a first-person game that was inspired by the eye-slicing
thanks, Wikipedia, for that tidbit
Any last words?

casey Ant hand.

brooke Also, boob touching, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to see that. I guess. Watch it anyway.




  1. Allan Davis · January 15, 2016

    For me surrealism is all about its historical moment–a comment I’m sure surprises no one. Brooke already mentioned the almost universal fascination and ascendance of Freud’s contributions (or at least popular derivatives of his work). And I think that’s a big element that separates surrealism from other experimental modernist forms like Futurism, Dada, and Cubism. But for all of them the giant looming impact of the Great War (aka WWI) is so significant to the art people start exploring. And there’s a range of arguments about the relationship of modern art to WWI, but it kinda boils down to one question: how do you make art after the trench? after the tank? after machine guns? after mustard gas? after unspeakable and unknowable horrors that were impossible to conceive? If art imitates life, but life becomes unrecognizeable, how can art in any way come to serve as a mirror.

    And basically modernist artist who wanted to “upset the bourgeoisie” saw art as it was up to that point in one of two lights. At best, previous artist modes were simply inadequate to explore life and humanity after the Great War. Monet’s impressionistic representations of water lilies just don’t cut it anymore–they can’t offer a balm for the soul plagued by shell shock. But far less favorably, many artists saw previous forms of art and entertainment not as inadequate but as complicit in creating the atmosphere for war. Later, after WWII, the Marxist critic Theodor Adorno remarked, “There can be no (lyric) poetry after Auschwitz.” In part because lyric and poetic traditions (particularly as they took shape in the work of Richard Wagner’s operas or Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical treatises) played a significant role in the success of the fascist propaganda machine of Nazi Germany. Likewise, surrealists in France who moved out of the Dada experiments in Switzerland had particular negative views on art and institutions like museums or galleries that contributed to the sense that art was sacred. And nothing says I’m gonna disrupt the sacred by bringing up repressed and silenced sex issues … over … and over … and over again.

    Ultimately, there was a sense that the sense of “art as sacred” itself contributed to the power of those that supported war and violence without ever suffering its more physical consequences themselves. So attack that sensibility and you destabilize that apparatus of power. I think you can definitely question the validity of their theory when it was put into practice: how much does this shock and challenge and subvert the power of the fascists or the complacency of the bourgeoisie? Very little I imagine. But to me, it’s a compelling new way think about visual and performance art.

    And that’s what I found fascinating about reading this entry: usually people consider film an outgrowth of either theatre because of the similarity of having performing actors or venues with audiences OR the novel because a director casts a viewer’s gaze much like an author controls what a reader sees. But the presence of Dali just reminds me that film (particularly a 20 minute work) can definitely be seen as a growth not out of the performing arts but rather visual art. Similarly performance art that would emerge in the 1960s and 1970s was not the work of actors, but painters and sculptors. So thinking about how this piece would not have been shown in cinema house but probably caberets, galleries, or salons, puts it in a different light than how we would categorize it now.

    ALSO, SALVADOR DALI PUTS ANTS IN EVERY SINGLE PAINTING HE EVER DID!!! The man loved him some ants. Or was repulsed by them. Or both. But yeah. Always the ants.


    • Brooke W · January 15, 2016

      How did I not know about the ants? I never knew that. Even in Galatea of the Spheres? I’m going to look at every Dalí painting I know now.

      Thanks for the comment, Allan. It mostly just makes me think I still have so much to learn about art and art history.


  2. Pingback: Heart of Glass (1976) | Brooke and Casey At The Movies

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