Two Vintage Films by Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or

While study­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Madrid in the late 1910s, a young Luis Buñuel befriend­ed an even younger Sal­vador Dalí. The first fruit of their asso­ci­a­tion, a short film called Un Chien Andalou, appeared a decade lat­er, in 1929, and quick­ly achieved the inter­na­tion­al renown it still has today. Sev­er­al ele­ments had to fall into place to bring this cin­e­mat­ic dream — or cin­e­mat­ic night­mare, or, most accu­rate­ly, some­thing neb­u­lous­ly in-between — into real­i­ty. First, Buñuel gained expe­ri­ence in the medi­um by assis­tant-direct­ing on major silent-era Euro­pean films like Mauprat, La chute de la mai­son Ush­er, and La Sirène des Tropiques. Then, Buñuel dreamt of the simul­ta­ne­ous image of a cloud slic­ing through the moon and a razor slic­ing through an eye. Then, Dalí dreamt of a human hand cov­ered in ants. With those two visu­als in place, they pro­ceed­ed to col­lab­o­rate on the rest of the film, work­ing under the prin­ci­ple that “no idea or image that might lend itself to a ratio­nal expla­na­tion of any kind would be accept­ed.”

We could dis­cuss Un Chien Andalou’s ratio­nal­ly inex­plic­a­ble images, but would­n’t that defeat the pur­pose? The moon, the eye, the hand, the ants, the cyclist in the nun’s habit — these non­sen­si­cal but endur­ing images must be seen, and you can do that free on YouTube. But at six­teen min­utes, the movie will only whet your aes­thet­ic appetite for Buñuel and Dalí’s par­tic­u­lar fla­vor of flam­boy­ant­ly non­sen­si­cal, grim­ly satir­i­cal imagery. Luck­i­ly, you can fol­low it up with 1930’s L’Age d’Or, which began as anoth­er Buñuel-Dalí joint ven­ture until the two sud­den­ly went their sep­a­rate ways after writ­ing the script. Buñuel took over, craft­ing a wry­ly sav­age five-part cri­tique of the Roman Catholic Church. Buñuel and Dalí had pre­pared them­selves for shock-induced phys­i­cal vio­lence at the pre­miere of Un Chien Andalou, only to find that the crowd had hearti­ly approved. But L’Age d’Or drew enough fire for both pic­tures and then some, get­ting banned in France and even­tu­al­ly with­drawn from dis­tri­b­u­tion until re-emerg­ing in 1979. Now you can watch it when­ev­er you like on the inter­net, sug­gest­ing that the con­tro­ver­sy has evap­o­rat­ed — yet the images remain as sur­re­al a way as any to begin your week­end. A restored ver­sion of the film can be viewed here.

You will find these sur­re­al films list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Seashell and the Cler­gy­man: The World’s First Sur­re­al­ist Film

A Tour Inside Sal­vador Dalí’s Labyrinthine Span­ish Home

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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