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Film / Un Chien Andalou

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Un Chien Andalou is a 1929 Mind Screw short silent film made by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. It's the Trope Maker for cinematic Eye Scream, a milestone on surrealist cinema. The plot — it's indescribable at best.

The title translates to An Andalusian Dog, which if anything just makes it more confusing (Dalí's friend Lorca was Andalusian, and they had a falling-out around the production of this film, so the title might have been a Take That! at Lorca. Buñuel, however, denied this).

Compare L'Age d'Or, the second film Bunuel and Dali made together, which is only a little less weird.

The film is a challenge to the developing world of film theory, specifically the Kuleshov Effect. Kuleshov found that people will create meaning from unrelated scenes simply because they're placed in a sequence (soup in a bowl, a man, a girl in a coffin, the man, a woman on a chaise, the man). Dali and Bunuel wanted to produce a film that couldn't possibly be construed as having any meaning, with every scene being as disconnected as possible from everything around it. Even the title, "An Andalusian Dog" is completely unrelated to anything in the film, as there are no dogs, Andalusian or otherwise.

Un Chien Andalou provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguous Gender: The person in the street who gets hit by a car, who may be a bifauxnen woman, a mythical androgyne dream archetype or a very feminine guy (played by a pretty, lipstick-wearing woman).
  • Attempted Rape: Foiled by the would-be assailant suddenly picking up two ropes and dragging two grand pianos with dead donkeys and bewildered priests attached to them across the room towards the cornered woman. He is slowed down sufficiently that she can escape. While he (or perhaps another version of him) is lying on the bed in the next room, the "plot" moves in a different direction at this point.
  • Body Horror:
    • Oh look! There are ants coming out of a hole in my hand!
    • Not to mention the guy's mouth disappearing and being replaced by a hairy armpit.
    • A woman gets her eye sliced open with a straight razor (it's actually a cow's eye in a close-up).
  • Creator Cameo:
  • Dead-Hand Shot: And the soon-to-be-made-roadkill androgyne is poking it with a long thin stick as a crowd gathers.
  • Eye Scream: The opening scene is one of the oldest and most infamous cinematic examples. They used a dead calf's head and heavy lighting to try to obscure the hairs on the face.
  • Gainax Ending: And beginning, and middle. Not too surprising, considering that the rest of the film follows a dream-like logic at best.
  • Identical Grandson: The father and son (assuming that's what they are supposed to be) are both played by the same actor.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: After the man and the woman see the person in the street hit by a car, the man gets aroused, and starts pawing at the woman's breasts — which are transformed into buttocks.
  • Le Film Artistique: Hey, would you like to watch a movie where a guy slices a lady's eyeball open and another guy drags around two grand pianos with dead donkeys on top of them? Of course you would!
  • Major Injury Underreaction: The male protagonist (if that's even what he is,) sports a gaping wound in the palm of his right hand that is infested with a swarm of ants. Although this injury fascinates him to no end, it neither alarms nor impairs him in any way.
  • Match Cut:
    • The infamous eye slicing is matched up with a shot of a thin cloud passing in front of the moon.
    • There's the hairy underarm shot that fades into a shot of a sea urchin which then fades into an overhead shot of the androgynous person poking the severed hand.
  • Mind Screw: Quite intentionally, as the film follows the logic of a strange, sometimes erotic, sometimes horrifying dream. According to Buñuel: "No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted" throughout the film.
  • Non-Appearing Title: There is no dog seen in the entire movie. Especially not from Andalusia!
  • Random Events Plot: Probably the Ur-Example in film history.
  • Refuge in Audacity: This entire movie is meant to confuse, horrify and outrage viewers. The infamous eye slicing scene is very graphic for the time.
  • Smash Cut: used throughout the film, but most notably in the infamous eye scene. Word of God from Buñuel explains that the close-up portion of the sequence used the head of a dead calf, with a combination of lighting, bleaching of the skin, and the jarring edit before and after used disguise the swap.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Not part of the plot, but on a meta level, the film itself could be seen as a Real Life example. While their aim was not failure, Dalí and Buñuel were definitely out to offend. The story goes that when they screened the film for the first time, the duo filled their pockets with rocks in order to defend themselves against the inevitably violent reactions from their audience. Much to their surprise and disappointment, however, the audience enjoyed it.
  • Surreal Music Video: falls into the hazy realm between Unbuilt Trope and Ur-Example, encapsulating the concept that the future genre would embrace, but created as an objet d'art for its own sake rather than as an accessory or response an existing musical piece. A major unbuilt aspect is that there was no set soundtrack to the original film, with Buñuel instead playing a varying selection of music at different screenings. The modern standard soundtrack consisting of samples from "Liebestrod", "Tango Argentino", and "Recuerdos" was added in the 1960's with Buñuel's approval as representative of the intended experience.
  • Take That!: The two dead donkeys dragged by the young man at one point are a pointed reference to Platero y yo by Juan Ramón Jiménez. A famous Spanish-language poetic novel about a man and his faithful donkey, the somewhat diabetes-flavored ode to Simple-Minded Wisdom, Arcadia, and the Good Old Ways in general was a shared object of disdain for the two creators.
  • Time Skip: The title cards sometimes say "eight years later", "sixteen years earlier" or "in Springtime", but there is little in the content to indicate an actual Time Skip. After the "sixteen years earlier" card, the movie picks up right where it was, in the exact same scene.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The woman who has her eye sliced apparently has both eyes functioning perfectly eight years later. Probably justified, due to the amount of other weird stuff that happens in the film.
  • Wipe That Smile Off Your Face: Someone's mouth disappears, soon to be replaced with armpit hair. It makes about as much sense as anything else in this movie.

Alternative Title(s): An Andalusian Dog