AN ANDALUSIAN DOG (16’, France, 1928)

 

At the opening night for the film AN ANDALUSIAN DOG, LUIS BUÑUEL said he filled his pockets with rocks, ready to defend himself in case of a negative response from the audience. Fortunately, the audience was pleasantly shocked and the film ran eight more months after the first screening. As this anecdote shows, one of the main points in surrealist filmmaking is to fearlessly fight conformism; from this point of view, it can be said without any exaggeration that AN ANDALUSIAN DOG has one of the most powerful images in the film history: the blade of a razor slicing through an eye.

Director: LUIS BUÑUEL

With the support of:

 

Cast: SIMONE MAREUIL, PIERRE BATCHEFF

Screenplay: SALVADOR DALI, LUIS BUÑUEL

Cinematography: ALBERT DUVERGER

Editing: LUIS BUÑUEL

Producer: LUIS BUÑUEL



 

 

Often associated with the Surrealist movement of the 1920s, LUIS BUÑUEL created films over six decades, from the 1920s through the 1970s. His work spans nearly every film genre, including experimental film, documentary, melodrama, musical, erotica, comedy, romance, costume dramas, fantasy, crime film, adventure and western. Despite this variety, filmmaker John Huston believed that, regardless of genre, a BUÑUEL film is so distinctive as to be instantly recognizable, or, as Ingmar Bergman put it "BUÑUEL nearly always made BUÑUEL films.” Asked how he would spend his life if he had only 20 years to live, BUÑUEL answered “Give me two hours a day of activity and I’ll take the other 22 in dreams.” Or, as Roger Ebert put it, “dreams were the nourishment of his films, and from his earliest days as a surrealist in Paris to his triumphs in his late 70s, dream logic was always likely to interrupt the realism of his films.”

 

“Result of the collaboration between LUIS BUÑUEL and SALVADOR DALI, the screenplay, originally called "Dangereux de se pencher au-dedans" (“Dangerous to look inside”) was written in Spain, at Cadaques, using the surrealist technique of automatic writing: the filmmaker and the painter told each other the dreams they had a night before in order to use them in the script, except only those that seemed too logical. The first dream DALI had was that of a hand of which a multitude of ants were coming out; BUNUEL dreamed his mother, the moon, a cloud crossing the moon and then one eye cut by a razor. The oneiric origin of the image with a hole in the palm of a hand is probably a fiction; in fact, in L’Amic de les arts magazine, there is a text by Lluis Montanyà in which we can find the following question: "Why, when picking up the pieces of cork fell on the ground, am I left, on the palm of my hand, with a black hole, full of a swarming anthill, which I think to take out with a spoon?”  1

 

It is to Pepín Bello, one of their friends who took part in the process, rather than to their morbid imagination, that they owe the invention of the “carnuzo”, the decomposition, the decay. Which will leave its trace in the image of the dead donkey lying on the piano in AN ANDALUSIAN DOG or in that of the rotten bishops in L’AGE D’OR. This taste for decay has a double reason: on one hand, it comes from the Spanish moral tradition that can be found in both the religious painting and the “bodegones” [the butchery scenes]; on the other hand, it connects the surrealist culture to the decadence of the end of the XIXth century.

 

Despite the stated oneiric nature of the images, the film continues to obey a relatively classical narrative. BUNUEL: "Although I used oneiric elements, the movie is not the description of a dream. On the contrary, the environment and the characters are real. When compared to other films, the fundamental difference lies in the fact that the protagonists’ actions are driven by impulses whose primary origins are irrational, like, for example, those of poetry. Sometimes the characters act in an mysterious way, to the limit where the complex pathology-psyche can be mysterious. This film was addressed to the feelings of the human unconscious, and thus its value is universal, even though it may become unpleasant to a certain social class stuck in puritan moral beliefs.“  2

 

Both filmmakers refuse the aestheticising nature of the dadaist cine-photography, as expressed, for example, in the Man Ray`s or Fernand Léger`s cinema, in order to defend the search for pure objectivity, which they find, the same as Francis Picabia, in the comic cinema (Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon...) and the “low culture” movies. It is precisely for these reasons that Georges Bataille defends AN ANDALUSIAN DOG in the Documents magazine : "(the movie) distinguishes itself from the ordinary avant-garde productions which one might be tempted to confuse it with, because here the script is dominant. It is true that some very explicit facts come one after the other without logic, but they penetrate so far into horror, that the spectators get as deeply and directly involved as in the adventure films. Involved and even, to be more precise, im-prisoned, without any artifice: do these spectators know, in fact, where the authors of this film will stop? If BUNUEL himself was sick eight days after shooting the cut eye scene (on the other hand, he had to film the dead donkeys scene in a pestilential atmosphere), how can one not notice how horror becomes fascinating – and also how only this horror is brutal enough to break these very prison bars." 3 (Philippe-Alain Michaud)

 

 

1. Lluis Montanyà, « Punt i apart » [« Point et aparté »], L’Amic de les arts, no 31, 31 mars 1929. Quoted in Jean-Michel Bouhours, Nathalie Schœller (dir.), Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, hors-série « Archives », L’Âge d’or. Correspondance Luis Buñuel-Charles de Noailles. Lettres et documents (1929-1976), 1993, p. 11.

2. Luis Buñuel, « Autobiographie 2 », Positif, no 147, février 1973, p. 41.

3. Georges Bataille, « Œil », Documents, no 4, septembre 1929, rubrique « Chronique – Dictionnaire », p. 216, note 1 ; rééd. Paris, Éditions Jean-Michel Place, 1991.

 

REVIEW (ROGER EBERT)

ARTICLE (SENSES OF CINEMA)