(director/writer/editor/producer: Luis Buñuel; screenwriter: Salvador Dali; cinematographer: Albert Duverger; music: Maurico Kagel/Martin Matalon; cast: Pierre Batcheff (Cyclist), Simone Mareuil (Young girl), Jaime Miravilles (Seminarist), Robert Hommet (Young Man), Salvador Dali (Seminarist), Luis Buñuel (Man with a Razor); Runtime: 17 minutes; MPAA Rating: NR; Kino; 1929-France-silent)

“It’s still shocking.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

In 1929, first-time filmmaker Luis Buñuel and surreal artist Salvador Dali collaborated to create this unexplainable landmark avant-garde experimental seventeen minute surrealist curio — noted for its most blood curdling scene where a young actress sits composed as the director acting the part of a barber takes a razor and slits her eye open. There are also a series of non-nonsensical dream-like images meant to shock and stir things up. These images include donkeys in pianos; breasts dissolving into buttocks; a man dragging a piano, two bishops tied to the piano legs, and a pair of rotting asses dragged across a room to corner a cowering woman; ants swarming around a hole in a man’s palm; a lady who is about to be raped having her underarm hair end up on her attacker’s face as a mustache; a severed hand on the sidewalk; a transvestite cyclist falling dead on the sidewalk for no apparent reason; and, a multitude of other Freudian sexual and provocative images to dislodge one’s sense of bourgeois comfort and make one think again about what civilization means.

The film can be seen as a rendering of the dream state and of dream logic and/or a series of surrealist displays. Buñuel in his autobiography said “Un Chien Andalou was born of the encounter between my dreams and Dali’s.” In any case, the one thing that is certain is that nothing in the film was intended to make sense (including the title).

Though this was originally a silent film, Buñuel later added a recorded score consisting of Liebestod from Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde and a number of popular tangos of the time. There are now three soundtrack versions around, with the other being specially scored compositions by Mauricio Kagel and Martin Matalon.

The film has lived up to its aim to shock, as viewed in modern times it’s still shocking and the most infamous short ever made. It’s probably not the masterpiece many have proclaimed, but still a film that all film students sooner or later find is a must see because of its cinema reputation.