Sunday, March 22, 2009

Un chien andalou (revisited)

Its not that I don't have enough projects at the moment (in fact I have 7, including 2 films) Its not that I really need my brain to be extended anymore than it already is.I'll explain. Some things just stay with you forever, like where you were when John Lennon was assassinated or when the world trade center was reduced to dust or when you first viewed 'Un chien andalou'. I saw this film when I was 16. I joined the art college cinema, which basically meant that you could walk into the small crappy room with a projector for free, which was fine since joining meant that you just show up. I saw this film in that small fug filled room with about 50 students all smelling of pot and sweat (it wasn't hot, they just didn't wash) I saw this film and I think I held my breath from the moment it started till the end, at least it felt that way. I held my breath not because of the student stench but because this film truly took my breath away and it never really came back until now.

The film opens with a title card reading "Once upon a time". What may be the film's conclusion unfolds; a middle-aged man, the "husband" (played by Luis Buñuel), sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony. There is a cut to a close-up of a younger woman, the "wife" (Simone Mareuil), being held by the "husband" as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the "wife's" eye is slit by the "husband" with his razor.

The idea for the film actually began when Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein in France. Buñuel told Dalí at a restaurant one day about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half "like a razor blade slicing through an eye". Dalí responded that he'd dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. They were fascinated by what the psyche could create, and decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions.

The legendary shot of the cow's eye being slit by Luis Buñuel.
The eye that was actually sliced in the opening scene was that of a dead calf. Through intense lighting, Buñuel attempted to make the furred face of the animal appear as human skin. During the bicycle scene, the woman who is sitting on a chair, reading, throws the book aside when she notices the man who has fallen. The image it shows when it lays open is a reproduction of a painting by Vermeer. Vermeer was a Dutch painter greatly admired by Salvador Dalí, whom he referenced often in his own paintings. In Buñuel's original script, the last shot was to feature the corpses "consumed by swarms of flies". However, this special effect was left out due to budget limitations.
Given the general distaste for surrealism among the French public, Buñuel and Dalí carried sacks of rocks in their pockets on opening night as self-defense, expecting a negative response from the audience. They were disappointed when the audience enjoyed the film, making the evening "less exciting", according to Dali.
The movie contains several thematic references to Federico García Lorca (who was in love with Salvador Dalí) and other writers of that time. For example, the rotting donkeys are a reference to the popular children's novel "Platero y yo" by Juan Ramón Jiménez, which Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí hated.
Both of the leading actors of the film eventually committed suicide; Batcheff overdosed on Veronal on April 13, 1932 in a hotel in Paris and Mareuil committed self-immolation on October 24, 1954 by dousing herself in gasoline and burning herself to death in a public square in Perigueux, Dordogne.
Modern prints of the film feature a soundtrack consisting of excerpts from Richard Wagner's Liebestod, the concert version of the finale to his opera Tristan und Isolde, and a recording of the Argentinian tango "Ole guapa". This is the same soundtrack that Buñuel chose and played live on a phonograph during the original 1929 screening in Paris. They were first added to a print of the film in 1960 under Buñuel's supervision. The film here (part of it) has a modern awful soundtrack but its the only copy I could get at time of posting.

So why do I see this film as another project? Well, once I get my 2 films finished I will start on my version of this film. I have 2 books full of ideas and shots all mapped out. Ever since I was 16 I wanted to do something artistic as a response to this masterpiece.I have one small (gigantic) problem, who will play the leading lady....Im open for suggestions. I usually have an eye for this sort of thing, if you know what I mean. At least I can breath again, It's been a while.


Anonymous said...

I can only imagine what kind of response you will have...a truly ambitious project (of the many you are juggling).

Will the world be ready to view it?

I wonder.

Breathe...not too deeply.



I wish I could start it a way I have

Anonymous said...

Yes, I have. Thought is the foundation of all already exists in your mind. In time...just in time, and at the right time.


meyerprints said...