The Ongoing Conflict of a Voyeur

Le Viol (The Rape), René Magritte, 1934

 
 

The Rape, one of Surrealism’s most powerful images — Georges Bataille could never suppress a nervous laugh whenever he was confronted by this painting — likewise works with a subversive idea. The selection of the work’s title indicates the ongoing conflict of a voyeur; René Magritte comes very close here to Hans Bellmer’s erotic perversion, albeit without the latter’s sadness.

In 1935, Andre Breton published his speech Qu’est-ce que le Surrealisme? with Magritte’s drawing, Le Viol on its cover. The image, a view of a woman’s head in which her facial features have been replaced by her torso, was meant to shock the viewer out of complacent acceptance of present reality into “surreality,” that liberated state of being which would foster revolutionary social change. Because Le Viol is such a violently charged image and because of the claims made for it by Magritte for its revolutionary potential, the drawing has been the subject of many arguments, both for and against its effectiveness. The feminist community has had a particular interest in this image (and in Magritte’s work as a whole) not only because of the controversial treatment of the female subject in Le Viol, but also because of the ways in which our culture has been so easily able to strip surrealist images of their political content and subsume them back into mainstream culture for use in those very categories of social practice which Surrealism wanted to eradicate.

 
 

Single sleeve

 
 

Angie is a song by the rock band The Rolling Stones, featured on their 1973 album Goats Head Soup.

Contrary to popular belief, the song was not about David Bowie‘s first wife Angela or Angie Dickinson; nor was it about Keith Richards‘ first daughter, Dandelion Angela. The song was written before the sex of his upcoming baby was known. He says in his memoir, Life: “I just went, ‘Angie, Angie.’ It was not about any particular person; it was a name, like ‘ohhh, Diana.’ I didn’t know Angela was going to be called Angela when I wrote Angie. In those days you didn’t know what sex the thing was going to be until it popped out. In fact, Anita named her Dandelion. She was only given the added name Angela because she was born in a Catholic hospital where they insisted that a ‘proper’ name be added.”
(Life, p. 323, Ch. 8.)

 
 

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This Species of Sunflower

Cette espèce d’hélianthe, Man Ray, 1934.

This photograph was used by Breton to illustrate his book Le Amour Fou (Mad Love)

 
 

TOURNESOL

“La voyageuse qui traverse les Halles à la tombée de l’été

Marchait sur la pointe des pieds

Le désespoir roulait au ciel ses grands arums si beaux

Et dans le sac à main il y avait mon rêve ce flacon de sels

Que seule a respiré la marraine de Dieu

Les torpeurs se déployaient comme la buée

Au Chien qui fume

Ou venaient d’entrer le pour et le contre

La jeune femme ne pouvait être vue d’eux que mal et de biais

Avais-je affaire à l’ambassadrice du salpêtre

Ou de la courbe blanche sur fond noir que nous appelons pensée

Les lampions prenaient feu lentement dans les marronniers

La dame sans ombre s’agenouilla sur le Pont-au-Change

Rue Git-le-Coeur les timbres n’étaient plus les mêmes

Les promesses de nuits étaient enfin tenues

Les pigeons voyageurs les baisers de secours

Se joignaient aux seins de la belle inconnue

Dardés sous le crêpe des significations parfaites

Une ferme prospérait en plein Paris

Et ses fenêtres donnaient sur la voie lactée

Mais personne ne l’habitait encore à cause des survenants

Des survenants qu’on sait plus dévoués que les revenants

Les uns comme cette femme ont l’air de nager

Et dans l’amour il entre un peu de leur substance

Elle les intériorise

Je ne suis le jouet d’aucune puissance sensorielle

Et pourtant le grillon qui chantait dans les cheveux de cendres

Un soir près de la statue d’Etienne Marcel

M’a jeté un coup d’oeil d’intelligence

André Breton a-t-il dit passe”

André Breton

L’Amour Fou, 1937.

 
 

___________________________________

 
 

SUNFLOWER

“The traveler who crossed Les Halles at summer’s end

Walked on tiptoe

Despair rolled its great handsome lilies across the sky

And in her handbag was my dream that flask of salts

That only God’s godmother had breathed

Torpors unfurled like mist

At the Chien qui Fume

Where pro and con had just entered

They could hardly see the young woman and then only at an angle

Was I dealing with the ambassadress of saltpeter

Or with the white curve on black background we call thought

The Innocents’ Ball was in full swing

The Chinese lanterns slowly caught fire in chestnut trees

The shadowless lady knelt on the Pont-au-Change

On Rue Gît-le-Coeur the stamps had changed

The night’s promises had been kept at last

The carrier pigeons and emergency kisses

Merged with the beautiful stranger’s breasts

Jutting beneath the crepe of perfect meanings

A farm prospered in the heart of Paris

And its windows looked out on the Milky Way

But no one lived there yet because of the guests

Guests who are known to be more faithful than ghosts

Some like that woman appear to be swimming

And a bit of their substance becomes part of love

She internalizes them

I am the pawn of no sensual power

And yet the cricket singing in the ashen hair

One evening near the statue of Etienne Marcel

Gave me a knowing look

Andre Breton it said go on”

 
 

The woman in Sunflower is Jacqueline Lamba, an artist who was Breton’s second wife.

A Renewed Acquaitance

André Breton, Joseph Cornell, 1966

 
 

It was through the meditation of Susan Sontag’s review of Maurice Nadeau’s book on surrealism that Joseph Cornell renewed his acquaintance with the writings of André Breton. This renewed contact was as Cornell put it, a risorgimento, bringing again the image of “the midnight sunflower”. It was not only Breton’s face that appealed to Joseph Cornell but certain images associated with him. These had, like his face, a certain talismanic appeal: see, for instance, the diamond, standing for Breton’s dream of the crystal.

Two things associated with Breton had special meaning for Cornell. First, Breton’s image of communicating vessels, with the marvelous interchange of one thing and another, this baroque interpenetration perfectly emblematized in the scientific experiment of the same name. in a sense, this imagined communication of elements compensates for the radical enclosures of his shadow theater boxes, as if between the boxes a link could be perceived. The midnight sunflower refers to Breton’s poem Tournesol (Sunflower), in which he recounts the discovery of marvelous encounter of his love, inspiring Cornell’s box Tournesol, itself an encounter, like all of his boxes. On this particular box, he worked repeatedly in January and February 1966: Cornell’s Breton period.

At Apollinaire’s Grave

At Apollinaire’s Grave (Nic Saunders, 2011) Short film Poster

Haunted by his past, The Poet travels to Paris determined to follow in the footsteps of his literary heroes. What he finds there will change his life and work forever. Allen Ginsberg wrote the source poetry at The Beat Hotel, 9 rue Git-le-Coeur, Paris and the exterior of the hotel is actually used in the film.  This is the second film directed by Nic Saunders based on the work of a member of the Beat Generation.

 
 

“…voici le temps

Oú l’on connaîtra l’avenir

Sans mourir de connaissance

 
 

I

I visited Père Lachaise to look for the remains of Apollinaire

the day the U.S. President appeared in France for the grand

conference of heads of state

so let it be the airport at blue Orly a springtime clarity in the

air over Paris

Eisenhower winging in from his American graveyard

and over the froggy graves at Père Lachaise an illusory mist as

thick as marijuana smoke

Peter Orlovsky and I walked softly thru Père Lachaise we both

knew we would die

and so held temporary hands tenderly in a citylike miniature

eternity

Roads and streetsigns rocks and hills and names on everybody’s

house

Looking for the lost address of a notable Frenchman of the Void

to pay our tender crime of homage to his helpless menhir

and lay my temporary American Howl on top of his silent Caligramme

for him to read between the lines with Xray eyes of Poet

as he by miracle had read his own death lyric in the Seine

I hope some wild kidmonk lays his pamphlet on my grave for

God to read me on cold winter nights in heaven

already our hands have vanished from that place my hand

writes now in a room in Paris Git-le-Coeur

Ah William what grit in the brain you had what’s death

I walked all over the cementery and still couldn’t find your grave

what did you mean by that fantastic cranial bandage in your

poems

O solemn deathsead what’ve you got to say nothing

and that’s barely an answer

You can’t drive autos into a sixfoot grave tho the universe is

mausoleum big enough for anything

the universe is a graveyard and I walk around alone in here

knowing that Apollinaire was on the same street 50 years ago

madness is only around the corner and Genet is with us

stealing books

the West is at war again and whose lucid suicide will set it all right

Guillaume Guillaume how I envy your fame your accomplishment

for American letters

your Zone with its long crazy line of bullshit about death

come out of the grave and talk thru the door of my mind

issue new series of images oceanic haikus blue taxicabs in Moscow

negroes statues of Buddha

pray for me on the phonograph record of your former existence

with a long sad voice and strophes of deep sweet music sad and

scratchy as World War I

I’ve eaten the blue carrots you sent out of the grave and Van

Gogh’s ear and maniac peyote of Artaud

and will walk down the streets of New York in the black cloak

of French poetry

improvising our conversation in Paris at Père Lachaise

and the future poem that takes its inspiration from the light

bleeding into your grave

 
 

II

Here in Paris I am your guest O friendly shade

the absent hand of Max Jacob

Picasso in youth bearing me a tube of Mediterranean

myself attending Rousseau’s old red banquet I ate his violin

great party at the Bateau Lavoir not mentioned in the

textbooks of Algeria

Tzara in the Bois de Boulogne explaining the alchemy of the

machineguns of the cuckoos

he weeps translating me into Swedish

well dressed in a violet tie and black pants

 a sweet purple beard which emerged from his face like the moss

hanging from the walls of Anarchism

he spoke endlessly of his quarrels with André Breton

whom he had helped one day trim his golden mustache

old Blaise Cendrars  received me into his study and spoke

wearily of the enormous length of Siberia

Jacques Vaché invited me to inspect his terrible collection of

pistols

poor Cocteau saddened by the once marvelous Radiguet at his

last thought I fainted

Rigaut with a letter of introduction to Death

and Gide praised the telephone and other remarkable inventions

we agreed in principle though he gossiped of lavender underwear

but for all that he drank deeply of the grass of Whitman and

was intrigued by all lovers named Colorado

princes of America arriving with their armfuls of shrapnel and

baseball

Oh Guillaume the world so easy to fight seemed so easy

did you know the great political classicists would invade Montparnasse

with not one sprig of prophetic laurel to green their foreheads

not one pulse of green in their pillows no leaf left from their

wars‒‒ Mayakovsky arrived and revolted.

 
 

III

Came back sat on a tomb and stared at your rough menhir

a piece of thin granite like an unfinished phallus

a cross fading into the rock 2 poems on the stone one Coeur

Renversée

Other Habituez-vous comme moi A ces prodigies que j’annonce

Guillaume Apollinaire de Krostrowitsky

Someone placed a jam bottle filled with daisies and a 5&10₵

surrealist typist ceramic rose happy little tomb with flowers and overturned heart

under a fine mossy tree beneath which I sat snaky trunk

summer boughs and leaves umbrella over the menhir and nobody there

et quelle voix sinistre ulule Guillaume qu’es-tu devenu

his nextdoor neighbor is a tree

there underneath the crossed bones heaped and yellow cranium

perhaps

and the printed poems Alcools in my pocked his voice in the

museum

now middleage footsteps walk the gravel

a man stares at the name and moves toward the crematory

building

Same sky rolls over thru clouds as Mediterranean days on the

Riviera during war

drinking Apollo in love eating occasional opium he’d taken the

light

one must have felt the shock in St. Germain when he went out

Jacob & Picasso coughing in the dark

a bandage unrolled and the skull left still on a bed outstretched

pudgy fingers the mistery and ego gone

a bell tolls in the steeple down the street birds warble in the

chestnut trees

Family Bremont sleeps nearby Christ hangs big chested and

sexy in their tomb

my cigarette smokes in my lap and fills the page with smoke

and flames

an ant runs over my corduroy sleeve the tree I lean on grows

slowly

bushes and branches upstarting through the tombs one silky

spiderweb gleaming on granite

I am buried here and sit by my grave beneath a tree

Allen Ginsberg

Paris, Winter-Spring 1958

 
 

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Hotel of Sparks

André Breton chasing butterflies with Benjamin Péret, c. 1959

 
 

The philosophical butterfly
Alights on the rosy star
And that makes a window in hell
The masked man is still standing in front of the naked woman
Whose hair glides like in the morning the light on a streetlamp that has not been extinguished
The learned furniture urges on the room that juggles
With its rose-windows
Its circular sunbeams
Its glass mouldings
Within which a geometric sky is turning blue
In memory of the inimitable breast
Now the cloud of a garden passes over the head of the man who has just sat down
And is cutting in two the woman with the bust of magic and the Parma eyes
It is the hour when the polar bear with the highly intelligent look
Stretches himself and counts a day.

 

André Breton

The Love of the Tiny

Dali Nude, in Contemplation Before the Five Regular Bodies Metamorphosed into Corpuscles, in Which Suddenly Appears the Leda of Leonardo Chromosomatized by the Visage of Gala, 1954

 
 

Ants. Pebbles. Bread crumbs. Hairs on the back of the neck. Sewing needles. Record needles. Blackheads. Subatomic particles. Strands of DNA. Salvador Dalí loved tiny things. He loved them in the twenties, when he was living in Barcelona and searching for an artistic direction that would be his own. He loved them in the thirties, when he was living in Paris among the surrealist painters and poets. And he loved them in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, and eighties, when he was living in New York as an artist of international fame. Indeed, if there was one constant in Dalí’s career it was the love of the tiny. Throughout the many years of his career, Dalí embraced a wide range of sometimes contradictory orientations and perspectives: Federico García Lorca’s poetic of the folk, Le Corbusier’s modernism of the machine, André Breton’s surrealism of the marvelous.

 
 

Tête Raphaëlesque éclatée [Exploding Raphaelesque Head]1951

 
 

These, however, were short-lived identifications (even the last one). His love of little things, on the other hand — of things that exist at the boundary of perception and on the edge of cognition — was a love Dali never abandoned.

Dalí’s identification with things small was to influence almost every aspect of the painter’s art and writing. It shaped his conception of modernism, of the avant-garde, and above all, of Sigmund Freud and his significance. Of course, all of the surrealists were influenced by Freud; in this regard, Dalí was no different. What distinguished him from his contemporaries was that, in his mind, Freud was most properly understood as a theorist of the tiny. For at the core of Dalí’s most significant and lasting contribution to surrealism’s psychoanalytic discourse — the concept of “paranoia-criticism”— was a belief in the power of little things to dig deep within our mind and then to resurface anew to wreak havoc on reality.

Of all his early writings on the subject of the small, the most evocative is a poem that Dalí first wrote in Spanish in the fall of 1927 and then published in Catalan in the August 31, 1928, issue of the journal L’Amic de les Arts (Friend of the arts). Titled “Poema de les cosetes” (Poem of little things), this brief, ten-line
verse articulated Dalí’s universe of the tiny as a realm of infinite transformation in which soft flesh turns sharp and spiky, solids become gas, and “little charms prick”:

 
 

“There’s a tiny little thing in a spot up high.
I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy.
The sewing needles plunge into sweet and tender little bits of nickel.
My girlfriend’s hand is made of cork full of thumbtacks.
One of my girlfriend’s breasts is a calm sea urchin, the other a swarming
wasp’s nest.
My girlfriend has a knee of smoke.
The little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the
little charms, the little charms, the little charms, the little charms. . .
the little charms prick.
The partridge’s eye is red.
Little things, little things, little things, little things, little things, little
things, little things, little things, little things, little things, little things,
little things . . .
there are little things as still as a loaf of bread.

 
 

Two Pieces of Bread Expressing the Sentiment of Love (1940)

Lifelong Muse

Salvador Dalí painting The Madonna of Port Lligat, 1949

 
 

In August 1929, Dalí met his lifelong and primary muse, inspiration, and future wife Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova. She was a Russian immigrant ten years his senior, who at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard.

A mysterious and highly intuitive woman, she was able to recognise artistic and creative genius when she saw it, and had relations with a number of intellectuals and artists.

The truth is nevertheless that very little is known about this personality: she had two older brothers, Vadim and Nicolai, and a younger sister, Lidia; she spent her childhood in Moscow, and her father died when she was eleven years old. Her mother remarried later to a lawyer, with whom Gala related very well and thanks to whom she managed to acquire a good education. She was a brilliant student, completing her studies at the M.G. Brukhonenko academy for young ladies with a very high average mark; a decree from the tsar authorised her to become a primary school teacher and to give lessons in people’s homes. In 1912 she suffered a worsening of the tuberculosis that had afflicted her for some time, and her family decided to have her cared for at the Clavadel sanatorium in Switzerland, where she met Eugène Grindel (later to be known as Paul Eluard). Their similar ages and love of reading led the two to become firm friends. Both were discharged from the sanatorium in 1914. Gala returned to Russia and Eluard went to the war front, though not before the couple had proposed to each other. They married in 1917, and the following year saw the birth of the girl who was to be Gala’s only daughter, Cécile. Eluard, who had already been revealed as poet and had changed his surname, related with the leading figures of the surrealist movement, and particularly the creators of the Littérature magazine: André Breton, Philippe Soupault and Louis Aragon. Gala also attended some of their meetings. In 1922 she started a relationship with Max Ernst, which broke off in 1924. Max Ernst painted her in a number of portraits. Also worthy of note was her friendship with the poet René Char, and particularly with René Crevel.

It was in 1929 that she met Salvador Dalí. In April of that year Dalí went to Paris to present the film that he had made with Luis Buñuel, Un chien andalou, and it was there that Camille Goemans, a Belgian poet and gallery owner, introduced Dalí to Paul Eluard. Dalí invited them to spend the summer in Cadaqués. Goemans and a friend of his, as well as René Magritte and his wife, and Luis Buñuel, Paul Eluard and Gala, and the couple’s daughter Cécile, all spent some time there.

It is during this visit that Dalí falls in love with Gala. She considers him to be a genius. According to The Secret Life, Dalí’s autobiography, “She wanted something-something which would be the fulfillment of her own myth. And this thing that she wanted was something that she was beginning to think perhaps only I could give her.”

The courtship continues among the rocks and groves of Cadaqués to the end of September. On a particular walk along the surrounding precipices, Dalí asks Gala what she wants from him-she replies, “I want you to kill me.” This “secret,” Dalí claims, cures him of his madness. The laughing fits and hysteria he was experiencing prior to her arrival cease.

When the painter met Gala he fell in love with her. In his Secret Life, he wrote: “She was destined to be my Gradiva (the name comes from the title of a novel by W. Jensen, the main character of which was Sigmund Freud; Gradiva was the book’s heroine and it was she who brought about the protagonist’s psychological healing), the one who moves forward, my victory, my wife”. And Gala was indeed to remain ever thereafter at the painter’s side, so that from that time on her biography was linked with that of Dalí.

In 1948 Dalí and Gala returned from the United States following eight years of exile there. Dalí had achieved recognition in his own country, and his father had come to accept his son’s relationship with a separated Russian woman. From that time onwards, the Dalís would spend the spring and summer in Portlligat and the autumn and winter between New York and Paris.

In 1958 Dalí and Gala married at the Àngels chapel, near Girona. In 1968 the painter bought Gala a castle in Púbol, Girona, and it was agreed that the painter could not go there without her prior permission in writing to do so. Between 1971 and 1980, Gala would spend periods of time at her castle, always in summer. It was there that Gala was buried, following her death in 1982. Since 1996 the castle has been open to the public as the Gala-Dalí Castle House Museum in Púbol.

 
 

Galarina, (1944-45)

 
 

My Wife, Naked Looking at her own Body,which is Transformed into Steps, Three Vertebrae of a Column, Sky and Architecture (1945)

 
 

Three Faces Of Gala On The Rocks, (1945)

 
 

Atomic Leda (1949)

 
 

The Madonna of Port Lligat (1949)

 
 

Galatea of the Spheres (1952)

 
 

The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1959)

 
 

Ecumenical Council (1960)

 
 

Dali from the Back Painting Gala from the Back Eternalized by Six Virtual Corneas Provisionally Reflected (1972-73)

 
 

Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Eighteen Metres Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln -Homage to Rotkho- (1976)

 
 

Dali Lifting the Skin of the Mediterranean Sea to Show Gala the Birth of Venus (1977)

Suppressed Human Emotions

Stills from Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog)

 
 

Federico García Lorca crowded his thoughts onto a sheet of stationery from a Barcelona cafe. “I want to weep,” he wrote to Salvador Dalí. “I’ve behaved like an indecent donkey’s ass with you, you who are the best thing in the world for me. As the minutes go by I see it clearly and I am truly sorry. But this only increases my affection for you and my attachment to your way of thinking and your human quality.” Lorca avoided saying more about what had taken place between the two men.

The friendship with Lorca had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the erotic advances of the poet. With the success of Gypsy Ballads, came an estrangement from Dalí and the breakdown of a love affair with sculptor Emilio Soriano Aladrén. These brought on an increasing depression to Lorca, a situation exacerbated by his anguish over his homosexuality. He felt he was trapped between the persona of the successful author, which he was forced to maintain in public, and the tortured, authentic self, which he could only acknowledge in private. He also had the sense that he was being pigeon-holed as a “gypsy poet”. He wrote: “The gypsies are a theme. And nothing more. I could just as well be a poet of sewing needles or hydraulic landscapes. Besides, this gypsyism gives me the appearance of an uncultured, ignorant and primitive poet that you know very well I’m not. I don’t want to be typecast”. Growing estrangement between García Lorca and his closest friends reached its climax when surrealists Dalí and Luis Buñuel collaborated on their film Un Chien Andalou (An Andalusian Dog). García Lorca interpreted it, perhaps erroneously, as a vicious attack upon himself. At this time Dalí also met his future wife Gala. Aware of these problems (though not perhaps of their causes), García Lorca’s family arranged for him to take a lengthy visit to the United States in 1929–30.

 
 

 
 

Un Chien Andalou is a 1929 silent surrealist short film by the Spanish director Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí. It was Buñuel’s first film and was initially released in 1929 with a limited showing at Studio des Ursulines in Paris, but became popular and ran for eight months. The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes. The film was financed by Buñuel’s mother, and shot in Le Havre and Paris at the Billancourt studios over a period of 10 days in March 1928.

The film has no plot in the conventional sense of the word. The chronology of the film is disjointed, jumping from the initial “once upon a time” to “eight years later” without the events or characters changing very much. It uses dream logic in narrative flow that can be described in terms of then-popular Freudian free association, presenting a series of tenuously related scenes.

The film opens with a title card reading “Once upon a time”. A middle-aged man (Luis Buñuel) sharpens his razor at his balcony door and tests the razor on his thumb. He then opens the door, and idly fingers the razor while gazing at the moon, about to be engulfed by a thin cloud, from his balcony.

 
 

There is a cut to a close-up of a young woman (Simone Mareuil) being held by the man as she calmly stares straight ahead. Another cut occurs to the moon being overcome by the cloud as the man slits the woman’s eye with the razor, and the vitreous humour spills out from it.

 
 

The shot of the eyeball (actually that of a dead calf) being slit by Buñuel

 
 

The subsequent title card reads “eight years later”. A slim young man (Pierre Batcheff) bicycles down a calm urban street wearing what appears to be a nun’s habit and a striped box with a strap around his neck. A cut occurs to the young woman from the first scene, who has been reading in a sparingly furnished upstairs apartment. She hears the young man approaching on his bicycle and casts aside the book she was reading (revealing a reproduction of Vermeer’s The Lacemaker). She goes to the window and sees the young man lying on the curb, his bicycle on the ground. She emerges from the building and attempts to revive the young man.

 
 

An image from Dalí’s dream, part of the inspiration for the film

 
 

The idea for the film began when Buñuel was working as an assistant director for Jean Epstein in France. Buñuel told Dalí at a restaurant one day about a dream in which a cloud sliced the moon in half “like a razor blade slicing through an eye”. Dalí responded that he’d dreamed about a hand crawling with ants. Excitedly, Buñuel declared: “There’s the film, let’s go and make it.'” They were fascinated by what the psyche could create, and decided to write a script based on the concept of suppressed human emotions.

 
 

Jaime Miravilles and Salvador Dalí as the confused priests

 
 

In deliberate contrast to the approach taken by Jean Epstein and his peers, which was to never leave anything in their work to chance, with every aesthetic decision having a rational explanation and fitting clearly into the whole,  Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was: “No idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.” He also stated: “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.”

 
 

 
 

Over the course of his long career Dalí associated his work with a wide range of predecessors (including Paul Cézanne, Le Corbusier, Giorgio de Chirico, Arnold Böcklin, and later Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci), but none of them came close to rivaling Johannes Vermeer. Throughout his life Dalí remained entirely unwavering in his belief that Vermeer was the greatest painter who ever lived and the artist whom he most dearly wished to emulate.

The first screening of Un Chien Andalou took place at Studio des Ursulines, with an audience of le tout-Paris. Notable attendees of the première included Pablo Picasso, Le Corbusier, Jean Cocteau, Christian Bérard and George Auric, in addition to the entirety of André Breton‘s Surrealist group. The audience’s positive reception of the film amazed Buñuel, who was relieved that no violence ensued. Dalí, on the contrary, was reportedly disappointed, feeling the audience’s reaction made the evening “less exciting.” Buñuel since claimed that prior to the show, he had put stones in his pockets “to throw at the audience in case of disaster”, although others had no recollection of this.

 
 

A death’s-head moth

 
 

Against his hopes and expectations, the film was a huge success amongst the French bourgeoisie, leading Buñuel to exclaim in exasperation, “What can I do about the people who adore all that is new, even when it goes against their deepest convictions, or about the insincere, corrupt press, and the inane herd that saw beauty or poetry in something which was basically no more than a desperate impassioned call for murder?”

Modern prints of the film feature a soundtrack consisting of excerpts from Richard Wagner‘s “Liebestod” from his opera Tristan und Isolde and a recording of two Argentinian tangos sometimes mistakenly referred to as “Olé guapa.” This is the same soundtrack that Buñuel chose and played live on a phonograph during the original 1929 screening in Paris. They were first added to a print of the film in 1960 under Buñuel’s supervision.

Film scholar Ken Dancyger has argued that Un Chien Andalou might be the genesis of the filmmaking style present in the modern music video. Roger Ebert had called it the inspiration for low budget independent films.