Louis Buñuel: Un Chien Andalou and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie Modern filmmaking has told us one

basic thing—it is simple, and not to be questioned. In “popcorn films” everything is right in front of you. The characters and plotlines are shoved down your throats, while there are no questions left unanswered. This is the exact “evil” that Luis Buñuel tries to fend off in his landmark films, Un Chien Andalou and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Both films question the mode of discourse known as narrative, the art or process of telling a story or giving an account of something. Andalou and Bourgeoisie, although they were made 43 years apart, do in essence, the same thing: whatever the director wanted. In his first film, Louis Buñuel collaborated with well-known surrealist Salvador Dali to create what Roger Ebert, the film critic who pioneered the ever so famous “two thumbs up,” would later call a “masterpiece.” So what makes this plotless cacophony of disjointed shots so impressive? Buñuel himself avowed that "No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted [into the film]." The film is meant to confuse and shock its audiences. That’s it; no fluff, no real literary, allegorical or, the always so easily assumable, symbolic, purpose, just visual representations of actual dreams that both of the twenty-something year old, rookie filmmakers had and remembered. Buñuel, when asked what he would do if he knew he only had 20 years left to live, responded by saying that he would like 2 hours a day of activity, and 22 of dreaming—as long as he could remember what it was he dreamt about. The film’s opening sequence contains one of the most well known shots from its generation. Preceding the infamous shot is one of a cloud almost “slicing” through the center of the moon.” Then, like something out of fear factor, a man slices open the eye of an unflinching young woman. As shocking as this concept sounds, in the film, you actually see this take place. An actual Calf’s eye is used, to make it more “sur-realistic.” This basically sums up the fundamental nature of Buñuel’s shock schlock. Every movie has magic, and Un Chien Andalou is no exception. However, somehow, its brilliance far exceeds the realm of run of the mill 24 frame per second

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magicianship. It forces the viewer to think, when no thinking is necessary, to analyze when there is nothing to analyze, but most importantly it shows us that film does not need to have a beginning, middle and an end, it doesn’t require a protagonist, it doesn’t even necessitate substance; film is just what it claims to be—artwork shown in rapid succession. In 1972, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Buñuel with an Oscar, an award widely considered to be the most coveted by filmmakers, for best foreign language film. The award honored The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, a film that shares many of the same qualities as its director’s first. Although it is also disjointed, it is not nearly as spontaneous. It’s story, if you can call it that, consists of several upper class individuals, or members of the bourgeoisie, who can’t seem to eat the dinner that is in front of them. Why they are interrupted, changes and becomes more fantastical as the film progresses. In the beginning, the movie follows an almost “comedy of errors” formula. The date of a dinner party is poorly communicated and the dinner guests show up on the wrong day; at the restaurant they travel to, a wake is being conducted in the adjoining room for the owner who passed away just a few hours earlier. Later, as if a dead owner in the back with somber mourners isn’t weird enough, the hindrances become more ridiculous— more than twenty soldiers come barging into the room where the main characters are about to dine; the characters begin to eat, but one of the walls rises, only to reveal that they are actually performing on stage for an unimpressed audience. The movie ends where they actually consume a meal, but as a result are killed by three gangster like men with machine guns. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie may not be as landmark as Un Chien Andalou, but it does the same thing. Both films question film and the way we, as viewers, watch them. They may not be the most entertaining, or even the most enjoyable, but they do show us how simple film can be. Film doesn’t promise anything except for a few pictures and occasionally some sound. Louis Buñuel shows us this fact with ease, and modern filmmakers could learn a lot from him.

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