Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou, L’Age d’Or and Viridiana

Dates and Venue 25-26 September |Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Three films reflecting a small tribute to the surrealist Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel will be shown at this venue, and for those viewers who would like to dig into the meaning of surrealism, these films, especially Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or are worth seeing for their educational value.

His first experimental film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog) (1928) in collaboration with Salvador Dali (both are also in the film as actors) was a shocker when it was first released. As in a surrealist dream, the film had no rhyme or reason, a film that was purposely incongruent. The film has no plot; the chronology of the film is disjointed, using the illogical sequence of dreams, jumping initially from "once upon a time" to "eight years later" . It was popular in Paris during those avant-garde years, and ran for eight months.

Another legendary 1930 shocker, L'Age d'Or is a scathing assault on Church, State, and the Middle Class. This classic surrealist film reflects the beauty of the irrational. It is a desperate yet offensive bid for individual freedom as it explores Bunuel's revolutionary ideas. Here he wants to underscore that in order to have your own mind you have to free yourself of the church and its grip on society. In the last segment, the sacrilegious representation of Jesus as a murderous impostor caused an uproar when it was first released in 1930. The film was banned for forty years.

For Christians, the film is quite disturbing and could cause anger and disgust for the faint-hearted and the morally righteous. But that was precisely the filmmaker's intention, as was the art of Dali and the "theatre of cruelty" of Antonin Artaud--an anti-audience approach to art.

In 1960, after an exile of more than two decades, Luis Buñuel was invited back to his native Spain to direct a film. The result was the scandalous Viridiana (loosely based on 19th century Spanish novelist Perez Galdos' Halma), one of the surrealist director’s great masterpieces. The film was produced with the full cooperation of Francisco Franco’s regime. It was rumoured that Franco didn't personally see anything wrong with the film when he saw it; the only reason he had copies destroyed was to appease the Catholic Church that had a stronghold on Spanish society during his regime. However, a copy of the film reached Cannes, where it won the Palme d’Or as best film for that year's festival.

© 2009 Ed Farolan