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Un Chien Andalou

So, I’d never see Un Chien Andalou before last week, and I don’t think I can let the week go by without commenting on it. [I totally closed my eyes during the eye-slicing part.  I’m a big chicken about gore.  But I just watched it on Youtube in case there were, like, ants crawling out of it or something else I missed.  It wasn’t as bad as I imagined.  The cloud cutting through the moon is somehow worse]  I know it’s a fool’s errand to try to cleanly delineate between the two nebulously-defined movements, but I felt like the film was a lot more post-modern than modern.  I mean, the thing’s lousy with Freudian references, and modernists were all about Freud; but the images don’t seem to cleanly add up to what we’d expect them to be, were they just illustrations of Freudian concepts.  You have the grotesque and the unheimlich and the doppelganger and it’s all presented in this dream-like, subconscious framework that Breton explains; but the way they’re presented, they evade simple explanations.  Un Chien Andalou seems to be more about unknowablility than psychoanalysis.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the way I understand it, modernism is kinda the child of Marx, Freud, Darwin, Nietzche and other 19th century thinkers.  While you can certainly see the fingerprints of some of those dudes on this work, I think Un Chien Andalou has more in common with thinkers that would have been more contemporary, like Heisenberg and Einstein- guys the post-modernists loved (love?).    Time, in particular, is treated with a solidly Einsteinian slant.

And then there’s the fragmentation of the work.  There’s a huge emphasis on splitting an event into little chunks of memory, then piecing it back together (something Munsterberg would consider a very filmic thing to do). While there are some definite instances of this popping up in modernist texts, it seems, to me, that the post-modernists were the ones that were really into it.  The fragmentation of memory is sort of about the failure of the mind, and I see that more in a work like Slaughterhouse Five then in something like Mrs. Dalloway.  And speaking of Vonnegut, I’m also reading a huge amount of black humor in Un Chien Andalou, almost to the point of playfulness.  Maybe it’s just me looking for humor in it, but c’mon- a dude that looked like this has to be in on the joke, right?

But, you know, so what?  Who cares if it’s Modernist or Post-modernist?  Would it change our reading of the film if you could say it is definitely one or the other?

No, I don’t think so.  But I did feel, while watching it, the the film was ahead of its time, perhaps shaping, to some extent, the massive movements in art that followed World War II.

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  1. Complete Eye care on Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Complete Eye care

    Matt's Film Theory Blog › Un Chien Andalou

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