Saturday, May 16, 2009

an andalusian dog

luis buñuel and salvador dalí's "un chien andalou", 1929.

I remember seeing this short film for the first time when I was about five years old. In short trousers clasping a glass of spilt milk. Right after "Watch with Mother"; back in those days when the BBC was less inclined to wrap its viewers in cotton wool soaked in chloroform, and took risks in its remit to educate.

Children's TV - "The Clangers"; "The Herbs" - possessed a sympathetic soupçon of autistic dislocation: "One sugarlump or two ?"asked the Andalusian dog.

Shocking, quite. Surrealistic, most definitely. Dali would have been delighted.

The film, of course, is entrenched in the silent era. Like Edvard Munch's "The Scream", a good few decades before NBC's "Homicide: Life on the Streets".

The question arises, then, whether a soundtrack is desirable or appropriate. Pianos were popular in theatres of the period, and provided welcome employment for itinerate musicians. Terry Riley's "In C" works remarkably well retrospectively, I feel, but overruns the film's 16 minutes by a good half hour. The piece has a distilled air of supressed hysteria and helplessness, like a cork bobbing on the ocean; or a bird with its wings frozen quietly dropping through the sky.

Suggestions on the back of a postcard, please.


Nathan said...

Bunuel played a soundtrack on a record player during the first screening of the film. It included parts of Wagner's "Tristan & Isolde" and a tango played on (I think) accordion. All the versions I've seen use this.

Not that a randomly-selected portion of "In C" wouldn't be delightful, particularly inasmuch as its aleatory structure would underscore the disconnections within the film...


Buñuel is one of my favorite filmmakers. His Mexican filmography being a strange but pleasant lot. But An Andalusian Dog at age five, not sure what I'd have thought. Have this in a collection of Luis' surrealist short films, always a favorite & always disquieting.

ib said...

Interesting, Nathan.

I was not aware of the Tristan & Isolde excerpt/tango as intended by Buñuel. I cannot recall whether the version I first saw broadcast had any musical accompaniment at all, or, indeed, if it was faithfull to Buñuel's original vision.

ib said...


Yes. At the time, daytime television was not considered appropriate in the UK. As a consequence, the BBC aired an hour of children's programming in the morning often followed by dead air and - if one was fortunate - educational programmes aimed at schools and colleges and students of the Open University.

"An Andalusian Dog" took me by surprise, but seemed sensibly placed alongside newsreel footage of the liberation of the concentration camps and the odd twenty minutes of algebraic equations.

Polanski's "Macbeth" aired in much the same fashion.


Ah, to have been borne in Britannia.

Anonymous said...

and to have seen it as the support act for Bowie's 1976 "Station to Station" tour would've been marvellous!

All that black and white!

ib said...

I didn't know that, Mr. K. But now you mention it... yes. And there is more than a hint of "Un Chien" in Nick Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth" too.