Prepare to squirm within the first 90 seconds.
A woman encounters a man with a razor. Ants crawl out of a hole in a man’s hand. A man is weighed down by dead livestock, grand pianos and live clergymen. How does it all tie together? You tell me. This is a silent French short with Spanish direction that you watch in any film class that is worth its salt, and one that you’ve probably seen multiple times if you consider yourself to be any sort of film buff. I myself have seen this about four or five times, and I still can’t tell you what it means. I can venture a guess, as I suspect it is some sort of biting commentary on the church, but that is purely conjecture, because I haven’t done that kind of legwork.
The entire short has this dream-like quality, jumping from oddity to oddity. Silent films may have the tendency to feel longer than they actually are, but not this one; this short holds your attention because it is so abstract, and it is sure to haunt you well after you walk away from it (it also doesn’t help that I’ve always been squeamish about eye stuff). This is what is widely considered to be the first surrealist film, and you can totally see how this paved the way for filmmakers like David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky. This does contain imagery that could possibly give you nightmares, so that is definitely something to consider, but other than that, this is absolutely essential viewing.
Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1929) ****
– Critic for Hire