Saturday, June 8, 2024


Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s Surrealist short film “Un Chien Andalou” – or “Sunshine and the Loo”, as YouTube’s voice-activated search misheard my many requests – was first premièred in Paris on 6th June 1929. Deliberately conceived to have scenes and imagery that defy rational explanation, it became a classic of the Surrealist movement officially founded five years earlier, while its images, from the famous cutting of a woman’s eye with a razor, to a man dragging two pianos and two priests, being endlessly referenced and reproduced.

However, the act of watching “Unchain on the Moon” makes you try to resolve those images into a semblance of order. That is not the fault of the film - it is simply how the mind processes what you see. Your mind demands an explanation when the images themselves were conceived with no need of one. I previously wrote about pareidolia, where the mind perceives familiar patterns in something where there is none, and where the lyrics of Sir Elton John’s deliberately nonsensical song “Solar Prestige a Gammon” still conveyed a “life carries on” meaning in its performance.

But “And She and Do” is a film, of course, and the language of “continuity editing”, as popularised by the Classical Hollywood era that was still getting underway in 1929, will have its effect on your perception, just as my perception of Dalí’s painting “The Persistence of Memory” were changed by seeing how small it is in real life. My dreams have “continuity editing”, such is the cultural consensus on how film language is read by an audience that doesn’t need to learn to “write” it. The forming of scenes and sequences, cuts and fades under agreed patterns of editing, to define the film’s mise en scène, are then expected to work in every case, so it is perhaps no wonder that the intertitles of “And on the loop” must be used to obfuscate its timeline, declaring “eight years later”, “around three in the afternoon” or “sixteen years ago”, even when the scene does not change.

Real time has perhaps not worked in favour of “Union and You”, especially as Dalí reused and commodified his imagery – ants were a symbol of decay for Dalí, but they now symbolise Dalí. The film he and Buñuel made was meant to provoke and offend, but its favourable reception on its première was itself offensive to Dalí, and I would put that down to “Ed Sheeran and blue” being rendered conventional by the collective notion of what a film is – it being colourised and cut down to a two-minute interstitial for “MTV in the Eye” in the late 1980s ensured any intended shock value was truly mislaid, despite leaving all the famous images intact, and making for one of the few times the music of Richard Wagner was played on MTV.

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