Based on an exchange of dreams between the Spanish duo of Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali, this jolting tale of desire contains one of the most notorious and potently metaphoric sequences in film history: a razor severing a woman’s eyeball in extreme close-up. Drawing from the vivid lives of their subconsciouses, Bunuel and Dali’s only rule was to reject any idea that might lend itself to any rational explanation. So if Un Chien Andalou is unified by anything, its the destruction of causality and continuity. The result is a hallucinatory film that meets its goals.
Bunuel was working under Jean Epstein when Un Chien Andalou was just a picture in his mind. But unlike the French Impressionist films, this landmark surrealist work was so far removed from the commercial film industry that it had to be privately financed and screened in small group showings. And even then, legend has it that Bunuel kept rocks in his pockets to defend from angry audiences. Intended to provoke rather than please (Bunuel saw it as “a passionate call to murder”), Un Chien Andalou‘s power to shock and titillate the viewer remains undiminished after 80 years. Sadly, both leading actors, Pierre Batcheff and Simone Mareuil, would commit suicide in 1932 and 1954, respectively.