A quick word of explanation regarding my absence yesterday (if anyone actually noticed, though I tend to doubt): Moving out of your apartment is always an overcomplicated, arduous experience. No matter how small an amount of stuff you may think you own, you always seem to own much, much more than that. Oh, and it’s aggravatingly expensive. Anyway, I’ll be living the nomadic life for the next 24 hours, so expect at least a few posts, complaints, fatigue-induced ramblings, etc.
Just now I picked up a copy of this week’s issue of The Onion, only to discover a genuinely pleasant surprise: Un chien andalou (1929; 16 minutes), the über-(in)famous collaboration between Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, is screening tonight at Mickey’s Tavern on Williamson St.; tickets are going for the semi-reasonable price of $0.00. Un chien andalou, as you’re probably aware, is a silent film, and yet its soundtrack is, without question, one of its most intriguing elements: sometimes it’s a randomized montage of fragments of masterworks by the giants of classical music, sometimes it’s an assemblage of excerpts from Liebestod, the concert version of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, fused with shards of “Ole guapa”, the Argentinean tango. It’s anyone’s guess what form the soundtrack will actually take when it’s performed live by local multi-instrumentalist Biff Blumfumgagnge. I mean, really, a free screening of Un chien andalou with live musical accompaniment? Such opportunities scarcely present themselves.
It’s often difficult to know where to place Un chien andalou in relation to Buñuel’s later work, which happens to be some of my favorite by any director ever. Buñuel’s French films are every bit as formally experimental as the exploded tapestry of obvious and not-so-obvious symbolism that is Un chien andalou. Perhaps it’s best to approach Un chien andalou as a cathartic first attempt at launching a rather direct offensive against bourgeois culture, drawing on the resources of psychoanalytically-informed semiology and the not yet solidified formal and moral conventions of cinema to announce the artist’s presence to a present and future enemy. Buñuel would go on to concern himself more with critiquing the Catholic church in films such as Viridiana (1961), Simon of the Desert (1965) and The Milky Way (1969), but his most unsettling and aesthetically radical work took the global bourgeoisie as its primary target. The seeds of this motivational contempt can be located in Un chien andalou and then later in L’Âge d’or, the first movement in Buñuel’s career-long shock-and-awe campaign.