Category Archives: Shorts

117. UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1929)

An Andalusian Dog

“No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted… We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why.”–Luis Buñuel on Un Chien Andalou

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DIRECTED BY: Luis Buñuel

FEATURING: Simone Mareuil, Pierre Batcheff

PLOT: A man slits open a woman’s eyeball with a straight razor. “Eight years later” another man visits the woman in her apartment and apparently tries to rape her, but finds himself tied to two grand pianos bearing dead donkeys and priests. After further absurd adventures the woman walks through her apartment door and finds her lover on the beach; the happy couple stroll along, though “in spring” they are seen buried in the sand up to their waists, apparently dead.

Still from Un Chien Andalou (1929)

BACKGROUND:

  • Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí co-wrote the scenario; each of them would reject an idea suggested by the other if they thought it made too much sense. The concept for the film arose when Buñuel described a dream he had about a cloud slicing the moon like a razor, and Dalí countered with a dream about a man with ants crawling from a hole in his hand.
  • Buñuel appears as the man who sharpens the razor in the opening scene. Dalí appears as one of the priests who finds himself surprised to be tied to a piano.
  • Un Chien Andalou debuted as part of an avant-garde double feature alongside Man Ray’s Les mystères du château de Dé. Buñuel and Dalí reportedly hid behind a curtain and carried rocks in his pocket to defend themselves in case the audience rioted, but were disappointed when the movie was well-received.
  • Un Chien Andalou is sometimes called the first “Surrealist” film. Germaine Dulac’s The Seashell and the Clergymen had debuted a year earlier, but the film’s Surrealist screenwriter Antonin Artaud denounced Dulac’s finished work as distorting his views, and even staged a riot at the film’s opening in protest. Still, Man Ray and Rene Clair had produced films that could easily be called “Surrealist” as early as 1924. There is no doubt that if it was not the first, Un Chien Andalou was at least the most memorable and influential of this small group of experimental films from the 1920s.
  • Un Chien Andalou is widely considered to be one of the most important movies ever made. Roger Ebert called it “the most famous short film ever made,” it is listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and it tied for #28 in Sight and Sound’s influential poll of the greatest films ever made (1992 edition), among other honors.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: We chose an indelible image for every movie that makes the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies, and the choice is not always obvious. Un Chien Andalou is a relief in that there’s no possible controversy over our selection of the eyeball slitting sequence as the film’s unforgettable moment. This is one of the most iconic moments in all of cinema; no one can watch it without wincing. It is also the film’s only obvious metaphor: the razor is Un Chien Andalou and the eye is the spectator, and this is what the one intends to do to the other.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The word “surreal” is thrown about a lot when talking about unusual


Short clip from Un Chien Andalou

films. Un Chien Andalou is the real deal, the original Surrealist sensation whose impact all the others have been trying to imitate to for almost a century. It is the undiluted essence of the pure unconscious spilled onto celluloid like vitreous humor. At a mere 17 minutes it’s the perfect length for a pure Surrealist movie; it hits hard and never overstays its welcome. It’s shocking, disturbing, full of marvels and uncomfortably hilarious; in other words, weird, weird, weird.

COMMENTS: A cloud hits the moon. Eyeball jelly oozes around a straight razor. A man rides a Continue reading 117. UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1929)

CAPSULE: THE TALE OF THE FLOATING WORLD (2001)

DIRECTED BY: Alain Escalle

FEATURING: Yûko Nakamura, Ryôya Kobayashi, Kakuya Ohashi

PLOT: A surrealistic montage set in motion by a tidal wave and incorporating a samurai battle.

Still from The Tale of the Floating World (2001)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Simply put, length. Floating World is a tidal wave of creativity, but at a little less 1/3 the running time it would need to be at least three times as notable or weird to take a slot on the List away from a full-fledged feature film.

COMMENTS: Although organized around the concept of a remembrances of Japan’s past as dreamed by a survivor of Hirsohima (we gathered this from the director’s notes, and presume it’s explained by the narrator’s brief untranslated comments that start the film), Floating World works on a vaguer level as a surreal tribute to European Japanophilia. Nipponese iconography—cranes, geishas, samurai—suffuses the film like sunlight through a rice paper print. A scene of a robed woman stumbling through a snowbound forest looks like a visual quotation from Kwaidan. Plenty of strangeness accompanies us in our journey though this dream of the Rising Sun: calligraphic characters turn into ants and crawls off the page during an eclipse, ashen nude zombies dance, and a samurai duel with flashing blades in a watercolor blur. The circa 2001 CGI is cheap and clunky looking: the aqua tsunami looks painted on the film, for example, and a sinking Buddha head is obviously superimposed on a separate shot of brackish water. Given the context you could hardly say the unreality of the imagery counts as a negative, however; the shots work exquisitely as a series of stills. Floating World works both as a demo reel for director Escalle’s visual effects skills and as an art installation of its own. Cécile Le Prado’s ornamental Oriental score contributes to the stony feeling of smoking opium while staring at a Japanese woodcutting hung on the wall.

The title refers to the Japanese concept of the “Floating World”—a hedonistic, secular world of fleeting pleasures and beauty for its own sake exemplified by geishas and kabuki theater—which flourished in the classical Edo period. “Ukiyo-e” or “pictures of the floating world” were a genre of woodcuttings depicting scenes of Edo-era Japan. The 18th century novelist Asai Ryō wrote a work entitled “Tales of the Floating World” about a Buddhist monk who finds enlightenment through debauchery. Dating back to Impressionism, French artists have had such a longstanding infatuation with Ukiyo-e that it’s given birth to a subgenre of painting known as “Japonisme.”

CONTENT WARNING: The Tale of the Floating World contains (tastefully presented) sex and nudity, and parts would not be considered “safe for work.”

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

No reviews located.

(This movie was nominated for review by Irene, who cited the film’s synopsis: “An evocative and surrealistic view of Japan and the atomic bomb. An imaginary story, both cruel and childlike.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

SATURDAY SHORT: THE RETURN OF JOHN FRUM (2010)

Christian Schlaeffer animates a series of seemingly random and nonsensical events based on a prophesy of a religion he finds to be “syncretic, ridiculous and pointless… though really not any more syncretic, ridiculous and pointless than any and all other religions.”

CONTENT WARNING: Contains some non-sexual, surreal nudity.