Pierre Batcheff

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Un Chien Andalou Review


Essential
It was released in 1929, but it still has the power to make audiences cringe today and it may remain the most notorious 16 minutes of film ever made. Called by director Luis Buñuel a "call to murder," and born of the Surrealist movement in art, Un Chien Andalou is one of the chief cultural artifacts from a time when film aspired to something larger than mere storytelling.

There is no plot, per se, but rather an amalgamation of images centering on a romance seemingly being conducted between the film's leads. Although Buñuel subverts every expectation that a viewer might bring to the film (time moves arbitrarily forward and backward, characters vanish and reappear, and the action remains stubbornly illegible), the images he uses to convey his deeper meanings remain passionate, resonant, and alarmingly, weirdly sexual to this day. These deeper meanings have to do with the innate drives sublimated to society, and in Un Chien Andalou they pop out everywhere with horrifying insistence: ants crawl from a hole in a human hand, pubic hair grows on faces, and, in the film's most infamous passage, an eyeball is slit with a razor just as a cloud cuts across the face of the moon. It's unsettling at least, but it also genuinely hypnotizes.

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