In Mexican cuisine, buñuelos are fried-dough confections drenched in sweet syrup. But syrupy would be the least accurate description of Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, who, until his death in 1983, was an unsentimental scourge of conventional pieties. As part of the McNay’s “Get Reel” series, two early Buñuel films, Un chien andalou and L’Age d’Or, will be screened Thursday evening at 6:30pm. Though they are classics of Surrealist art, the filmmaker himself cringed at the word “art” and insisted on creations as transgression. “The true ‘opium of the audience,’” he declared, “is conformity; and the entire, gigantic film world is dedicated to the propagation of this comfortable feeling, wrapped though it is at times in the insidious disguise of art.”
In Paris in 1929, young Buñuel collaborated with painter Salvador Dalí on the mother of all low-budget independent films, one that will outlast The Blair Witch Project, Clerks, El Mariachi, and Sundance’s latest shoestring sensation. The opening sequence of Un chien andalou, as they whimsically called their 16-minute stunt, though it lacks any Andalusian dogs, is — literally — the most eye-opening sequence in the history of cinema: While a cloud cuts across the moon, a man takes a razor and slices a woman’s eyeball. Three decades after the invention of motion pictures, it challenged the way we see.
Defying reduction to a coherent plot or theme and devoid of any logic except that of a dream, Un chien andalou makes its indelible mark as a succession of bizarre images — ants swarming from the wound in a palm, a horny man pawing at a woman’s breasts, books morphing into pistols, a man dragging two grand pianos to which dead donkeys are attached, live priests, and the Ten Commandments. Created at the dawn of talkies, the musical accompaniment for this silent — the lush Liebestod from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, and a couple of tangos — mocks the fervid eroticism lurking in unlikely places.
Every cinephile has a pet provocation, but for me this Andalusian dog still bites.
Dir. Luis Buñuel; writ. Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel; feat. Pierre Batcheff, Simone Mareuil. (NR) (1929, 16 min.)
L’Age D’Or (The Age of Gold)
Though 44 minutes longer than Un chien andalou, L’Age D’Or has left a smaller imprint, if only because it caused such offense that it was withdrawn from circulation for 50 years. Featuring the defenestration of a bishop and the fellatio of the toe on a statue, the film loosely follows a young couple as family and church thwart their bids to consummate their love. It anticipates the obsessions and provocations in later Buñuel features such as The Exterminating Angel and the Oscar-winning The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. I cannot imagine David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Andrei Tarkovsky without Buñuel, irreverent master of uncanny imaginings.
Dir. Luis Buñuel; writ. Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí, Marquis de Sade; feat. Gastón Modot, Lya Lys, Caridad de Laberdesque. (NR) (1930, 60 min.)
Get Reel Film series
$5 (free for museum members)
6:30pm Thu, March 31
McNay Museum’s Chiego Lecture Hall, 6000 N New Braunfels