exponentiation ezine
exponentiation en ezine

exponentiation ezine: issue [2.0:culture]

[ music | books | film | food ]

Un Chien Andelou (dir. Luis Bunuel, 1929)  
Un Chien Andelou is a film of dreams and tantalizing irrationality.
The film title translates to "An Andelousian Dog," and it's the first
example of a surrealist film.  This is also surrealist Luis Bunuel's
first film, thus beginning the start of an iconoclastic and wild film
career for Bunuel.  The 17 minute short was co-written with fellow
surrealist great Salvador Dali.  This is one of the most notorious and
well known short films in existence, in part because of its shocking,
disjointed and dreamy imagery which remains potent to this day.

The film opens with one of the most memorable sequences in film
history.  A tango plays as a man (Bunuel) is sharpening a barbers
razor.  A thin veil of smoke from his cigar dances around his head as
he pears into the moon. The shot switches to the inside where a woman
is sitting down in a chair and looking forward.  The Bunuel character
approaches her and takes the razor to her eye and slices it open.  The
sequence then ends and the meat of the surrealist short begins.

The film takes us on a seemingly incoherent ride as if we are in a
dream, experiencing these phantasm's first hand.  The plot circulates
around a young man and a women whom he desires but cannot obtain.  The
two challenge each other while strange things happen and scenes just
mysteriously change before our eyes. One sits in wonder taking in all
the dream like imagery of this short film.

There is an undeniable passion in the method and work of Bunuel.  His
iconoclasm as a film maker is unrivaled and his willingness to push
the boundaries is applauded. Un Chien Andelou is a short that attacks
rationality, Catholicism and the bourgeoisie. The film expresses the
desperation of a man who can never truly have the woman he seeks.
Bunuel seems to portray the underlying beast behavior of the
bourgeoisie who have come to believe they are no longer an animal but
something outside of nature.  These are common themes that would
follow Bunuel throughout his career.  While Bunuel would later say in
an interview that the film had no meaning, it was just a poke at the
avant-garde cinema of the day that relied more on form than substance,
it is apparent that there are some themes presiding through the film.
Bunuel was known for being an iconoclast, often threatening to burn
his films and making rash comments for effect; it is quite possible he
did so by denying the film had to say anything at all.  Bunuel was a
true surrealist after all (except for a brief period in the 30's where
he was under the influence of Communism, probably in part because it
was a radical idea.  Bunuel later revoked and vehemently condemned
Communism and throughout his career there exists anarchistic
sympathies and an attack on snobbery).  This is a piece of cinematic
history that should not be missed by anyone into this medium.  This is
a pure work of surrealistic iconoclasm.

At its very base Un Chien Andelou is a trip through the seemingly
incoherent world of dreams and nightmares.  Love for the irrational
was a cornerstone of the surrealist style and this is apparent from
the beginning to the end of this brilliant short film.  Bunuel manages
to create something hauntingly memorable by shooting this film with
such bravado and charisma. - phantasm
Download the film here: 


"Triumph Of The Will" (dir. Leni Riefenstahl, 1935) 
In the first decades of the 20th century, some nations adopted
political regimes which were brought forth by theories and
philosophies that constituted a complete renewal of the system
previously in vigor, most notably fascism and communism. In order to
strengthen their political base and gather more adepts, the rulers of
those countries used some types of propaganda to spread the word,
including cinema, which was at the time a relatively new and powerful
art form. Nevertheless, there are at least two examples, one from each
of the two regimes mentioned, of films that had initially mere
propaganda purposes but turned out to be true masterpieces: The
Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin, 1925), directed by Sergei
Eisenstein and filmed in the Soviet Union, and Triumph Of The Will,
directed by Leni Riefenstahl and filmed in Nazi Germany. Due to the
efforts of the media and western governments to condemn and boycott
things that are connected to National Socialism since the end of World
War II, Riefenstahl's picture is not remembered by critics as often as
Eisenstein's piece is, despite the fact that it was one of the most
groundbreaking movies of its time.

The film depicts the Reich Party Congress which took place in
Nuremberg in the year of 1934 and the events connected to it. At the
beginning, after a brief explanation of the context that led to such
celebration, there is a display of beautiful images of the city and
scenes of Adolf Hitler being enthusiastically hailed by a devoted
crowd as he arrives at the airport and goes on to his destination in
his car. What follows afterwards are the Führer's inspections of the
national army and workers, political rallies, military parades and
speeches of members of the government. Considering its content, the
movie could have been just an ordinary political documentary, but it
achieves a great deal more than that not only because of the unique
nature and magnificence of the Reich, but also due to the incredible
talent of its director, as Triumph of the Will is, indeed, technically
irreprehensible. Innovative techniques such as multi-angle camera
shots, cranes and tracking rails were utilized and the result is
nothing less than spectacular. From the beginning till the end, there
is a succession of masterfully edited and beautifully photographed
scenes which at the same time capture the essence of the events in a
realistic way and exalt their grandeur.

Ultimately, this documentary is highly recommended to anyone who is
interested in modern history and to those who would like to see rare
images of a nation united under the banner of heroism and ancient
symbols of might, as if in a fortified island surrounded by a world
where industrialism and conformism had long swallowed honor and pride,
in a time where such things were already practically nonexistent. -


"Apocalypse Now" (dir. Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)

Why people love this movie: it puts into poetry a song of the decline
so vast, so carefully considered, that it does not register as
propaganda as much as honest emotion. It leaves aside social
considerations, such as what might or might not offend, and supplants
them with a view of the world in which we find ourselves, as if
crafted from the inner self we all nourish and hide away from the
uncomprehending, thickly vengeful world out of outer society. In
brief, it is a synthesis of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" and Joseph
Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," both poems that deal with the collapse
of the West through an inward lack of will and spirit that corrupts
all things and cannot be addressed by ordinary political means.
Modernizing it somewhat, the directors set this descriptive fantasy in
the jungles of Viet Nam, and add to it period pieces of music and
culture and language, showing us how much the safe world of television
and plastic-sealed products cannot change the beast within.

Our perspective follows that of a military man sent up a long river
deep into the jungle, having been given instructions to eliminate a
man superior to him; our protagonist is recovering from his own
failures, and is expected to restore himself to good graces with this
mission. Over this creepy narrative line is woven an elaborately
detailed simple story of a team of people fighting their way into a
war-wracked, disorganized territory in which every "official" reason
is supplanted by a darkly subconscious actuality, one in which
predation and profit obliterate all idealism. To understand this
movie, realize that it is not a war movie; war is one of its
metaphors, but specifically, modern war is, in that it shows us the
pretense of an organized society in a disorganized, manic pursuit in
which all intentions are hidden behind layers of starchy bureaucratic

"Apocalypse Now" is anything if not lavish; A-level names from its
era, magnificent battle scenes that replace special effects with the
guaranteed effect of simply blowing up huge things in coordination,
and excellent cinematography highlight its passage and make a linear
storyline come alive in depth if not permutation (fortunate, since the
latter is destructive to emblematic themes as used here). In this
light, the movie is a strike against not only the mentality it
describes, but the artistic community that, drunken on the same
mentality, refuses to produce honest work describing it. While it is
mainly a work of overbearing mood, this movie is lightened by humor
and the pathos of human real-world survival in illogical circumstance,
touching on French existential philosophy as much as proto-modernist
realism. For all of this it is a great work of filmmaking, but what
makes this movie a form- independent great work of art is its
articulation of finely observed reality in poetic form, looking beyond
the temporal to see the spiritual, philosophical and psychological
dilemma of this cycle in our Western civilization. - vijay
copyright © 2005 mock Him productions