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Friday, February 02, 2007

I love technology and having smart friends

Posted by: Jambo / 7:45 PM

The smart friends are Libby Mae and our friend Dave with whom I saw the excellent Pan's Labyrinth a couple nights ago. During our email discussion to decide which movie to see Dave expressed some reluctance to see what he had heard was in part an update of the more disturbing aspects of "Un Chien Andalou". Libby Mae quickly responded with a quote from a review: 'Happily, when [del Toro] alludes to a famous Buñuel image by showing Captain Vidal in his undershirt wielding a straight razor, we are spared the gory payoff of "Un Chien Andalou".'

Now here is where technology comes in. Tho I think of myself as a pretty literate film fan I had no idea what either of them were talking about. But a quick Google search informed me it is a very famous 1929 short French film by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. So the next stop was Youtube to view the original. It's a very disjointed, non-linear affair which I suppose is fitting for a Surrealist film. But it does have a classic scene that I had actually seen before, the razor and eyeball shot that Dave and Libby Mae were alluding to. Within 20 minutes of our email exchange I not only knew what they had been talking about but had actually now seen the film. Even 5 years ago I might still be in the dark about the older film and would have missed an intriguing element of a new one when I saw it. Like I said, I love technology.

Having "Un Chien Andalou" in the back of my head while watching Pan's Labyrinth made a great movie even more gripping. The scene in Pan comes fairly early and even tho he is alone in the room with his razor Captain Vidal is given an extra air of menace as the scene is an obvious homage to the more violent older scene. That's the way literary allusions are supposed to work and I am very pleased that there are directors out there with the talent to work them in. I think del Toro also alludes to "Un Chien Andalou" in a later scene with the creature with holes in his hands. A little more recently I think there are also a couple allusions to "Chinatown" in the film as well, one involving a knife and another with a watch (don't want to spoil too much for anyone who has yet to see this.) And it may be inevitable with any film involving the Spanish Civil War, but I couldn't help but think of For Whom the Bell Tolls a couple times as well, tho the foreign fighter with the wounded leg is French rather than American. Now you don't need to have seen "Un Chien Andalou" or "Chinatown" or have read For Whom the Bell Tolls to enjoy Pan's Labyrinth but the fact that all that is in there makes it perhaps the richest film I've seen this year. And I think it also may be my favorite. I'm certainly pulling for it to win the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

(An added bonus from friends who are not only movie savvy, but music fans as well: In the process I have learned that Un Chien Andalou is the inspiration for the Pixies' "Debaser", a song I always liked but never understood. "Got me a movie/ I want you to know/ slicing up eyeballs/ I want you to know...")

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I like having smart friends, too. So, I really enjoyed your post.
As it happens, I was in London on business in September. I stayed over the weekend to save on an airfare and had a chance to visit some museums. I went to the Tate Modern and lo and behold, they had an exibition on surrealism. One of the things on display was "Un Chien Andalou." In addition to the fact that I saw the film, the exhibit as a whole was very well done, and I ended up with an appreciation for surrealism that I had never had before.
As Spock would say, "fascinating."
Now, I want to see "Pan's Labyrinth."

By Anonymous therealrepublican, at 5:47 PM  

I don't want to give the impression that Pan has anything more than a couple passing references to Un Chien Andalou. It's not in anyway based on or inspired by the earlier film. But it is a very well done film in it's own right that I do think you would enjoy. And if you're like me the little flashes of recognition when you are in tune with the director will make it that much more fun. I am actually considering seeing it again since I think there were probably things I missed, like the connections between the events in the fairy tale world and the "real" world, e.g. parallels between the underworld feast and the dinner party where the captain hands out the ration cards.

By Blogger Jambo, at 12:38 PM  

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