Combustible Celluloid
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With: Simonne Mareuil, Pierre Batchef, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali, Robert Hommet, Marval, Fano Messan, Jaime Miravilles
Written by: Salvador Dali & Buñuel
Directed by: Luis Buñuel
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Silent with English intertitles
Running Time: 16
Date: 06/06/1929

Un Chien Andalou (1928)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Slicing Up Eyeballs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou is absolutely essential viewing for anyone seriously interested in cinema. It's only 16 minutes long, so there's no excuse not to make time for it. While living in Paris in the 1920s, the maverick Buñuel naturally gravitated toward the surrealists, whose manifesto was to shake things up by showing life in a different light. Buñuel and Dali concocted Un Chien Andalou by assembling a series of shocking, dreamlike images, none of which told a story or had any ulterior motive or alternate meaning. Buñuel kicks off the film with the most astonishing, unforgettable opening scene of any film, and appears as the barber who takes a razor to a woman's eye. The filmmakers ingeniously cut away to a slender cloud slicing across the face of the moon, and then cut back to an extreme close-up of a cow's eye. Other great images include the ants crawling on the hand (Dali's idea), and a man massaging a girl's breasts as her clothes disappear and re-appear. The film has the effect of washing over you like a long dream, and some images will linger longer than others. But no one ever forgets the eye.

Un Chien Andalou enjoyed tremendous success, and led to Buñuel and Dali making the feature film L'age d'Or two years later. For almost 80 years, Un Chien Andalou has continued to enjoy a reputation among both serious cineastes and cult fans, earning mention in a Pixies song (1989's "Debaser") and ranking on Entertainment Weekly's list of the top 50 cult films in 2003.

DVD Details: It's too bad that Facets and Kino couldn't have teamed up to release this and L'Age d'Or on the same DVD (or that neither of them bothered to include the short documentary Land Without Bread), but it's still nice that they're both finally available in America. Facets' disc presents the complete 16-minute cut of the film, plus an optional commentary track by surrealism expert Stephen Barber. Buñuel's son Juan-Luis is featured in two short documentaries about the history behind the film. Another extra gives information about surrealist designer Dave McKean. The liner notes contain the transcript of a speech Bunuel gave in 1953, "Mystery of Cinema."

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