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18 DECEMBER 2016

Un Chien Andalou: the surrealist masterpiece restored and corrected

"The film as shown here plays in 'actual time', slowing down the hyper, 16 minutes cut to a more deliberately paced 21+ minutes. The image is less contrast-blown than any version I have seen, not to mention that it is no longer heavily cropped. The score, too, is different, dropping the now iconic tango back-and-forth with Wagner, with just a straight run through the Wagner."

(Blake Williams, 22 February 2011)

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1929 • Albert Duverger • black and white • Blake Williams • Fano Messan • film restoration • Filmoteca Espanola • hermaphrodite • influential works • Jaume Miravitlles • Jimmy Berliet • Luis Bunuel • Marval • masterpiecemasterwork • Original Aspect Ratio (OAR) • Pierre Batcheff • Pierre Schild • restorationRobert Hommetsilent cinemasilent filmSimone Mareuilsurrealist cinema • surrealist masterpiece • Un Chien Andalou (1929)

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
11 JULY 2014

The Phantom of Liberty: humorous critique of bourgeois conventions

"Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty was quickly dismissed upon its release in 1974. Not only did it have to contend with the lingering success of 1972's similarly themed but significantly less abstract The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, but it was quickly followed by the dreamlike, bi–polar romantic entanglement of the director's last film, That Obscure Object of Desire. Like Discreet Charm, the plot–free Phantom of Liberty is a patchwork of comedic sketches and sight gags through which Buñuel ravages a complacent European culture and the various sexual hang–ups and historical and cultural disconnects of its inhabitants. This heady, almost off–putting masterwork isn't particularly easy to decipher (maybe we aren't meant to), which is why it's best to approach it as a literal comedy of manners.

Films structured around daisy chains of dysfunction are a dime a dozen; most, though, are as tiresomely long–winded as they are content with their own strained circularity. This isn't the case with Phantom of Liberty, which begins with a shot of Goya's 1808 masterpiece 'The Third of May.' The painting depicts Napoleon's army executing a group of faceless Spaniards, and via a reenactment of this struggle, Buñuel depicts how one of Napoleon's captains tries to defile the monument of Doña Elvira only to be smacked on the head by the moving arm of the statue of the woman's husband. (He later intends to sleep with the woman's corpse, and when he opens her coffin, he's amazed by how her beauty has been preserved.) It's the first of many sight gags in the film, each and every one as startling as they are perversely funny. All these moments are possessed by a sense of shocked wonderment and discovery, and they all more or less evoke fragile pasts and characters trying to reconcile their historical detachments."

(Ed Gonzalez, 13 September 2003, Slant Magazine)

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1974absurd situationsabsurdist humourabsurdity • Adolfo Celi • Adriana Asti • Anne-Marie Deschott • apparition • Arch de Triomphe • archaic rules • Bernard Verley • black humour • bourgeois • bourgeoise societycancer • chance encounter • cigarettes • Claude Pieplu • coffin • comedic sketches • comedycomedy of mannerscorpsecritiquecultural conventionscultural pastdaughterdining practicesdinner tabledisappearancedoctor • Dona Elvira • eatingepisodic structureetiquetteEuropean cinema • European culture • faith • Francois Maistre • girl • Goya • Helene Perdriere • hotel • housemaid • humour • impulses • internal logic • intrusion • Jean Rochefort • Jean-Claude Brialy • Julien Bertheau • Le Fantome de la Liberte (1974) • Luis Bunuel • mailman • masterwork • Michael Lonsdale • Michel Piccoli • Milena Vukotic • Monica Vitti • Montparnasse • morality • nanny • narrative preconceptions • obscene • ostrich • parodypatchwork • Paul Frankeur • phallicphallic symbol • Philippe Brigaud • Pierre Maguelon • policepolite societypostcard • postman • psychoanalysisritual • rooster • rulesschool • schoolchildren • Serge Silberman • sexual hang-ups • sexual taboo • sight gag • sketch comedy • sniper • social behavioursocial conventionsSpanish filmsubconscioussurrealist cinemasurrealist filmmakertaboo • That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) • The Phantom of Liberty (1974) • The Third of May (1808) • toilettriptych • vanished • visual gagzoo

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
02 OCTOBER 2011

Un Chien Andalou: a masterpiece of surrealist cinema

"Acclaimed as a surrealist masterpiece, Un Chien andalou aggressively disconnects itself from narrative flow. The creators of this short film. Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, fully intended there to be no links between successive scenes. Fortunately this didn't inhibit their dreaming up of some of the most striking moments ever to be projected upon the silver screen. The opening focuses on a man (Luis Buñuel) stropping his cut–throat razor, honing it to a perfect edge. Stepping onto the balcony, he gazes at the moon. This celestial orb is instantly replaced with a woman and, enlarging rapidly, her left eye. The bare blade then descends on her unprotected pupil, a graphic incident.

Designed to shock, which it still does almost 70 years later, quick editing removes the image before it has time to fully sink in. Suddenly the viewer is faced with a nun–like figure weaving uncertainly down the road on a bicycle. There is no bridge to the previous horror, although this mysterious person does provide a number of objects which resurface at odd intervals. Later there is the unusual sight of a man (Robert Hommet) hauling two grand pianos, each stuffed with the putrefying remains of a donkey, as he trudges towards a cowering woman (Simone Mareuil). He is also unfortunate enough to have a hole in his hand, where the ants live. None of this is significant.

A marvellous aspect of something as wilfully bizarre as Un Chien andalou is that almost any interpretation can be drawn from the images shown. Perhaps every single scene is random and unconcerned with any other, although Buñuel certainly seems to have included items which are present throughout the film. In some ways the repeated glimpses of these things in situations where they shouldn't be adds to the confused feel, enhanced by the off–putting and nonsensical time–markers deployed.

The eternal themes of life, death, lust and love are thrown up at various points, although there is no framework on which to attach these emotions. This is of no consequence though as Buñuel has already hurried onto the next sequence, violently cutting so that the desired woman becomes naked in a flash – a picture of what are ardent suitor really sees. Un Chien andalou does not require such deep analysis though, being much more a film which should be purely experienced. It achieves that which Buñuel and Dalí aimed for and, with a live music accompaniment, is unstoppable."

(Damian Cannon, 1997)

Fig.1 Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (1929). 'Un Chien andalou'

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1929aggressionAn Andalusian Dog (1929)art film • cut-throat razor • deathdogdreamfilmFreudiangraphic representationinfluential works • interrupted narrative flow • lifeloveLuis BunuellustmasterpiecenakednunRobert HommetSalvador Dalishockingsilent filmSimone Mareuil • slice • slicedSpanish filmspectaclesurrealismsurrealist cinemasurrealist filmssymbolismUn Chien Andalou (1929)violencevisual metaphor

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
09 OCTOBER 2010

Equivalences for written language in visual language?

"The failure of the early surrealist films to communicate the mystery and beauty of life that they sought to express was largely due to an attempt to translate or find equivalences for written language in images or visual language. Artaud alone had an original vision of what cinema should be, but lacked the means to implement it.

––lt is futile to look for an equivalent of written language in visual language –such a translation from one idiom to another is foredoomed to failure. The essence of the visual language should be so presented, and the action should he such that any translation would be out of the question: the visual action should operate on the mind as an immediate intuition'. Antonin Artaud, Preface to 'The Seashell and the Clergyman'."

(Elisabeth H. Lyon)

Elisabeth H. Lyon. "Luis Bunuel: The Process of Dissociation in Three Films," Cinema Journal, Vol. 13, No. 1. (Autumn, 1973), p. 47

Fig.1 Germaine Dulac (1926). 'La Coquille et le Clergyman'

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1929An Andalusian Dog (1929) • Antonin Artaud • cinema • equivalence • filmintuitionLuis BunuelPierre BatcheffSalvador Daliseminalsilent filmSimone MareuilSpainspectaclesurrealism • The Seashell and the Clergyman • translationUn Chien Andalou (1929) • visual action • visual communicationvisual depictionvisual languagevisual literacywritten language

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 MAY 2009

BBC Four Arena 1986 television documentary about Salvador Dali

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1986 • Amanda Lear • Andre BretonArena (TV series)BBC Four • blank canvas • donkey • eggfake art • Gala Dali • Hotel Le Meurice • je ne vois pas la femme cachee dans la foret • Jean-Francois Millet • jesuit • Johannes VermeerLouvreLuis BunuelMan RayMarcel DuchampMax Ernst • Paul Eluard • piano • recluse • rhinoceros • Sacre-Coeur • Salvador Dalisurrealist artistssurrealist filmmakertelevision documentary • The Angelus (1859) • The Enigma of William Tell (1933) • The Lacemaker (1670) • Un Chien Andalou (1929)unconscious desiresVladimir Lenin

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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