Ebert's review of Un chien andalou provides both a good analysis of the film to use as a comparison to The Seashell and the Clergyman and a good example of the main arguments put forth in support of Un chien andalou as the first Surrealist film. According to Ebert, the idea for the film originated from a discussion between Dalí and Buñuel about dreams they had had, prompting them to make a film beginning with images from their dreams. “In collaborating on the scenario, their method was to toss shocking images or events at one another. Both had to agree before a shot was included in the film. 'No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted,' Bunuel remembered. 'We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us, without trying to explain why'” (Ebert). Ebert also asserts the historical primacy of the film: “It was made in the hope of administering a revolutionary shock to society. 'For the first time in the history of the cinema,' wrote the critic Ado Kyrou, 'a director tries not to please but rather to alienate nearly all potential spectators.'”
Ebert's review provides much useful information for a comparison of Un chien andalou and The Seashell and the Clergyman and the theories behind them. To begin with, the technique used by Dalí and Buñuel in writing their film was quite different than those used by Dulac and those theorized by Artaud. Ebert argues that Dalí and Buñuel sought to create a film entirely devoid of meaning with no rational connection between any of events or images, essentially a film of pure nonsense. This varies considerably from Artaud's ideas of creating an experience that betrays a traditional narrative setting (requiring at least some connections between parts of the film) in order to include the spectator in the film. The goal of Dalí and Buñuel was to create a film that left the viewer with nothing and no ability to derive meaning from the experience; whereas, Artaud's goal was to force the audience to be a part of the dream world and create interpretations and conclusions on their own. Additionally, the technique of throwing illogical, surprising images at the audience used by Dalí and Buñuel was a primary technique in Dulac's film as well. Ebert and Kyrou advocate the uniqueness of Un chien andalou as film's first attempt to alienate an audience, but ignore the attempts of The Seashell and the Clergyman to alienate the audience from identification with the film and many other previous films such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Impressionist films. While differences between Un chien andalou and The Seashell and the Clergyman may be noted from their difference in purpose, the theory and techniques used in both originated with Dulac's film.
Ebert, Roger. "Un chien andalou (1928)." Rev. of Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago Sun-Times 16 Apr. 2000.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.S85 W5
In Figures of Desire, Williams examines the extension of surrealist theory to film. Choosing to stray from the traditional assertion that there is an intrinsic surrealist connection between dreams and film, Williams instead embraces various Freudian tenants in order to guide the discussion on surrealist film. The first accepted tenant is Lacan’s idea that the formation of the self is strongly linked to the formation of a bond with an image. It is surrealist film’s unique ability to provoke this identification that differentiates it from other film genres. Another idea that Williams embraces is that “surrealist film focuses on the process of identification rather than reproducing its effect in the spectator.” Here, Williams argues that surrealist film holds a unique position in that it both forces the viewer to identify with, and challenge the validity of the image. Williams goes on to analyze Un Chien andalou and L’Age d’or within the context of these ideas. Ultimately Williams comes to the conclusion that in many surrealist films metaphoric desires rather than plot or characters become the true protagonists of each film.
While Spellbound is not a film made directly by a surrealist director, although Dali was a contributor, the film exhibits some of the same attributes that Williams argues characterizes surrealist film. One of the main similarities is the rejection of plot crises in favor of a preoccupation with a larger desire. In the case of Spellbound, the larger issue is the desire to understand how the mind works. While the audience is intrigued by the plot twists and exciting adventures that Dr. Peterson and John Ballantine encounter during our time with them, the entire film is set up and continually comes back to each characters desire to open the doors of his or her mind and understand the greater mysteries that surround them.
tagged bunuel dream_sequences surrealist_film by merhaupt ...on 10-APR-08
Bradshaw, Peter and Andrew Gilchrist. "How to make a surrealist film: Grab a giant seashell, send for a rotting donkey, and don't forget to press your dinner jacket...Peter Bradshaw and Andrew Gilchrist offer 10 tips for any budding Bunuels." The Guardian (London), 5 March 2007,16. Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, 9 April 2008. .
Bradshaw and Gilchrist offer “budding Bunuels” ten tips for perfecting surrealist films. Their article might approach the issue of surrealist filmmaking from a humorous perspective, but there are several legitimate points within the article. The authors argue that filmmakers should dress their characters in formalwear, repeat scenes, change scenes abruptly, let a seashell star in the film, slice open an eyeball, and sell tickets made of sandpaper to the premier of the film, just to name a few. While, the authors openly mock the ridiculousness of many surrealist traditions, each one of their tips is grounded in the past action of a surrealist star from Bunuel to Dali.
In addition to hiring a seashell and appearing in full scuba gear for your film’s premier, the authors argue that each surrealist film should include a dream sequence. They specifically single out the dream sequence in Spellbound, which was created by Dali. While the article, by mentioning the film by name seems to imply its superiority, or at least superior notoriety, when compared to other surrealist films, the inclusion of Spellbound in this top ten list of surrealist tips emphasizes the lack of opportunity for originality that plagued Dali and other surrealist filmmakers who worked within the Hollywood system. In Spellbound, Dali was used for his name recognition rather than his vision as a surrealist thinker. Instead of allowing Dali artistic freedom to create the alternate world that he had imagined, the producers of Spellbound changed Dali’s vision and subsequently demeaned his contribution to the film. Instead of allowing him artistic control, Spellbound used Dali’s name as a vehicle for publicity and conformed his vision to the restrictions of a surrealist greatest hits list.
tagged bunuel spellbound surrealism by merhaupt ...on 10-APR-08