Un chien andalou (1929)

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Released 3-Sep-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Audio Commentary-by Michael Koller, film writer & Cinemateque curator, Melb.
Featurette-The Definitive Dali (1986) - Documentary on the life of Dali
Featurette-Las Hurdes (1933) - Documentary by Luis Bunuel
Featurette-A Propósito De Buñuel (2000) -Biographical feature on Bunuel
Trailer-Various Umbrella Trailers (Four trailers on each disc)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1929
Running Time 15:54
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Luis Buñuel
Studio
Distributor
Stomp Visual Starring Simone Mareuil
Pierre Batcheff
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Richard Wagner


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Where does one start with this film? Un Chien Andalou is so unique in the context of the history of World Cinema, that many, many essays have been written in the vain attempt to interpret its narrative and categorise it as a film. I would humbly add, to the great writings of what has been said before, from many more learned film and cultural scholars, that Un Chien Andalou has no plot or narrative, and it's not simply a surrealist film, it's more than that. The key to appreciating it lies in the body of work that Luis Bunuel has filmed from this effort, his first feature film in 1929, to his last film that he made in 1977, That Obscure Object of Desire.

    The premise for the ideas from the film comes from two dreams, one by Luis Bunuel and one by Salvador Dali. Bunuel's dream involved an image of the Moon been sliced by a cloud in half "like a razor slicing through an eye" while Dali's dream was a vision of ants coming out of the palm of a hand. Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali met at 'The Students' Residence' in Madrid, an Arts college that produced many of Spain's finest artists and writers during the early 20th century. Here they formed a friendship together with Federico García Lorca, a poet who admired Dali. Lorca had issues with his sexual orientation, and was possibly infatuated with Dali. Dali himself was most probably asexual until he met Gala Eduard, who left her husband to eventually marry Dali. The title An Andalusian Dog (or Un Chien Andalou in French) has been commonly referred to as a name for the film derived from a movement or collection of poetry in Spain during the 1920s. I would hypothesise to go further and suggest that Un Chien Andalou is a reference to Federico Garcia Lorca himself. Lorca saw the film as an attack upon his ideals and his work. While this has been denied from a few references, I would say that there is some truth in it. This sixteen minute film was made as an ode to the Surrealism movement in France in the late 1920s/early 1930s, but it's other influence was the comedies of American Cinema at the time, so the film should be seen as an irreverent criticism against common culture, specifically religion and it's role in inhibiting sexual desire, the development of the role of women in their relationships with men,(both Bunuel and Dali were noted misogynists) and the influence of the bourgeoisie class in society. If we take this one step further, both Bunuel and Dali came from regions from the north of Spain, whereas Lorca came from Andalusia in the south which was historically the point of entry for all the ethnic, corrupt influences upon Spain, including the Romans, Vandals and Muslims. So for this reason it is understandable why Lorca took the title and contents of the film as a personal criticism.

    Another point of contention is the role of Salvador Dali in the creative process of the film. It is mentioned in the DVD extras that Dali contributed little to the film. I believe he contributed to the script and the soundtrack (Richard Wagner's music was a personal favourite of Dali's whereas Bunuel would go on to eschew non-diegetic music in his films beyond the silent era), but not the filmmaking. Bunuel raised the money to make the film from his mother, and the ideas in the film, namely the criticism of the role of the Catholic Church and the bourgeoisie class in society and its relation to sexuality, were themes that Bunuel would use in practically all his movies, especially during his French period when he made his best and most memorable films from 1964 until his retirement in 1977. (Although one should also include his Mexican period films, Los Olvidados and The Exterminating Angel, as well as his only film made in Spain during the Franco Fascist era, Viridiana)

    Un Chien Andalou was made in France, and following his 1933 documentary, Las Hurdes, Bunuel fled to America because he could see that he had no future if General Franco's military regime took over Spain, which they did after civil war ended in 1939. Salvador Dali remained during this time, not attracting any attention to himself because he had labeled himself "apolitical", but Lorca was not so lucky, murdered in 1936 by Franco's Nationalists.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This film was made in 1929, so please be mindful of the video quality as that would not be the reason for acquiring this DVD.

    The aspect ratio of Un Chien Andalou is slightly less than a standard full frame transfer, just under 1:29:1

    Macro blocking, low level noise (caused by the film been shot on low quality film stock) and aliasing is evident during camera pans.

    Un Chien Andalou was shot in black-and-white, and since the production was cheap the film was overexposed, this can be seen on outdoor location scenes.

    MPEG Artefacts are noticeable at 0:40, 1:52, 2:21, 2:28, 2:34, 2:49, 4:04, 5:48, 6:51, 8:52, 9:02, 9:19, 11:58, 13:08, 13:29, 14:19, 14:46, 15:05, 15:16, 15:39 and 15:47. There are also some instances of telecine wobble.

    The film is silent so title cards were originally in French, however this transfer has titles that have been translated into English. The opening credits have burnt-in subtitles in English.

    There is no RSDL change on this DVD as both discs are have transfers presented on a single layer.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film was first played in 1929 with a live recording accompaniment. This featured a recording from Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde and an Argentinian tango. The soundtrack heard on this version of Un Chien Andalou was added in 1960 under Luis Bunuel's supervision.

    There are two audio tracks. The first is the main soundtrack which is Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224kbps. The second track is an audio commentary soundtrack which is Dolby Digital 2.0 also, encoded at 192 kbps.

    The main soundtrack has slight hiss and crackle throughout, the audio drops out at 8:12, 9:07, 9:11 and 15:24.

    Music consists of the two aforementioned recordings, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde musical motif and the two tangos.

    There is no surround channel usage.

    The Subwoofer is not utilised either.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary - by Michael Koller, film writer and curator, Melbourne Cinemateque

This is an excellent and comprehensive commentary by Michael Koller who shares a lot of information on the film in a very short time. Koller begins with an introduction to the film that is 4:15 long. He runs through the background of the film over a montage of scenes from the movie. Among other things he mentions that the credits are incorrect due to lack of supervision, the famous eye-cutting scene symbolises a laceration upon the moral and political values of the audience, Dali's lack of involvement in shooting, the origin of the soundtrack, film-editing was conventional, with matching eye-line shots and reverse shots, but temporal dislocation occurs because the film has no chronological order. He adds that Federico Garcia Lorca saw the film as a criticism of his poetry. Koller offers an excellent analysis on the infamous priest,pianos and donkeys scene where Dali features as one of the priests stating that the scene is concerned with man's struggle for sexual satisfaction against his moral and bourgeoisie concerns. You can view Koller's essay on Un Chien Andalou at Senses of Cinema online here.

Featurette - Dali (or Dali:The Definitive Dali) (75:13)

I suppose Umbrella included this documentary on Dali's life to balance the second disc on this DVD which features a documentary on Bunuel's life. This documentary was produced in 1986 by the BBC, it runs for 75:13, not 60 minutes as stated on the DVD case. I found the development of Dali's artistic style interesting, especially his surrealistic works from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, but Dali's taste for a lavish lifestyle led to a more commercial focus from then on. Dali's provocative behaviour was meant to shock and bring attention to himself, and although it is claimed that Dali had many friends throughout his life, the lack of interview subjects in this documentary is telling. Please note that Dali's English is difficult to follow, not all his dialogue in English is subtitled.

Featurette - Las Hurdes (27:59)

This is the only documentary that Bunuel made and it features the impoverished people of the region of Las Hurdes and their struggle to survive without basic necessities (hence the subtitle Land Without Bread). The film looks great for its age, with only a few artefacts. The audio is in French, dubbed later in 1935, this is clear and concise throughout. Las Hurdes was a region of Spain that was considered ignorant for many centuries in Spanish culture. Bunuel's documentary was done to address this issue and to highlight the need for government assistance for the region.

Featurette - A propósito de Buñuel (99:17)

This documentary on Luis Bunuel's life is simply sublime, the highlight feature of this DVD in my opinion. Over twenty of Bunuel's friends, contemporaries and peers are interviewed shedding light on his childhood, his family, his surrealistic influences in his filmmaking, his directorial style and his views on religion, sex and class. This is the same documentary that is on the second disc of the Criterion Collection version of his film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (I own this disc and was able to compare these documentaries). However, that disc is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions, whereas this is not on the Umbrella Region 4 release. I suspect that Criterion may have 'blown-up' the original transfer as the subtitles on their release is slightly cropped at the bottom of the image (or at least it plays this way when played on my Samsung 46 inch widescreen television). At least the subtitles on the Umbrella disc are clear and easy to read. Interestingly, Bunuel rejected all attempts from Dali to reconcile their friendship after the 1940s. Apparently Dali played a hand in Bunuel resigning his job from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and besides, Bunuel couldn't get work in America due to his communist sympathies. Alfred Hitchcock thought Bunuel was his equal as a contemporary director, and in my mind I can't think of any director who produced his best work past the age of sixty, other than Clint Eastwood perhaps. Serge Silberman, who produced all of Bunuel's work during his French period post 1964 (except Belle De Jour and Tristana) is the last interviewee on this documentary, and the fondness he had for Bunuel is obvious for the viewer to see.

Trailer

There are four Umbrella trailers on each disc for the following films: Pandora's Box, Ossessione, Children Of Paradise, Wages Of Fear on disc one and Eyes Without A Face, Les Diaboliques, The Bicycle Thief and I Vitteloni on disc two.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Un Chien Andalou has been released in Region 1 in The USA and Region 2 in France and The United Kingdom.

    The Region 1 US version contains the following:

    An audio commentary by Stephen Barber, A Slice of Buñuel documentary (16:10),Epilogue: Dali & Buñuel Interview (with Buñuel's son) (4:40).

    The Region 2 French version contains the following:

    A Mirror Film interview with journalist Philippe Rouyer (18:38), Surrealism documentary (17:46), I Don't Define Myself clip from Cinéastes de notre temps TV show (5:00), Dali and Buñuel (9:40), Interview with Juan-Luis Buñuel (11:00), Between Rupture and Repair interview with Jean-Claude Carrière (12:04). Note that all these extras are in French with no English subtitles.

    The Region 2 UK version contains the following:

    An audio commentary by Robert Short, A Proposito De Bunuel documentary with optional English subtitles (99:15), Introduction by Robert Short with optional English subtitles (25:20). This release includes subtitles for the main feature and the commentary. It is also part of a dual DVD release with Bunuel's 1930 film, L'Age d'or.

    In summary, the Region 4 release is a quality release that should easily suffice the appetite of cineastes with a love for World Cinema history, however, the region 2 UK release, in a set with L'Age d'or has similar extras to the region 4 release and is highly recommended also.

Summary

    If you haven't bought this DVD yet, do so now. It has a wealth of extras (especially Michael Koller's informative commentary and the documentary on Luis Bunuel that goes for over 90 minutes) that easily appeases the senses. Un Chien Andalou is an important part of cinematic history, David Lynch's Eraserhead, Terry Gilliam's Brazil or the films of Monty Python wouldn't have been made without its influence. Congratulations are in order for the Australian distributor, Umbrella for making this release possible in region 4 and for producing a great product, highly recommended for Region 4 DVD collectors.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 019), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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Comments (Add)
Cheapest Price - wolfgirv
Las Hurdes - Pearce REPLY POSTED
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Las Hurdes/ That obscure object of desire - wolfgirv REPLY POSTED