That infamous Luis Buñuel’s collaboration with Salvador Dali continues to confusing and confound viewers eighty years later. One of cinema’s memorable short surrealist films, the images of sliced eyeballs, dead livestock, severed hands, and grand pianos still make as little sense now as they must have then. The protégé’s of Un Chien Andalou, (Lynch’s Eraserhead, Jodorowsky’s El Topo, etc.) have helped familiarize the film going world with images of the absurd, but few seem to get it right. What makes Buñel and Dali’s film so frightening is that each radical image cements itself in a rather ordinary setting. It is the real in their surreal work that helps ground their nightmare visions into a realm of believability that makes our own dreams so concrete.
Those who try to be weird for weirdness sake usually go too far. They fall into the trap of being too shocking, leaving little mystery – the equivalent of a magic act where all the strings and mirrors are visible – or they cannot help themselves from placing deeper meanings behind every image. I am not suggesting that Buñuel or Dali’s images are without meaning. The ants crawling forth from the palm of one man may likely suggest his desire to kill as if a literal translation from a French term that suggests this desire. However, reading into this film to such a degree tarnishes the magical dream logic that it invokes on the audience. With reoccurring characters and objects, wide jumps in time, and a very stark connection to reality Un Chien Andalou is not so much weird as it is weirdly realistic, but it’s the sort of reality you can only experience with your eyes shut or in the cinema.