Nov 24 Surrealism Cinema

Surrealist cinema (1924-1929)

Surrealist cinema is a modernist film theory lanched in Paris in the 1920s. Related to an earlier tradition of Dada cinema, surrealist cinema is characterised by juxtaposition, the rejection of reality, and a frequent use of shocking imagery.

Developed in the early twentieth century, surrealism is an artistic and literary style which draws upon irrational imagery and the subconsciousmind. Surrealist artists approach both art and life with aims to review and redefine accepted parameters of reality.
Surrealists should not, however, be mistaken as whimsical or incapable of logical thought; rather, most Surrealist promote themselves as revolutionaries.Surrealism opposes compartmentalization of experiences; surrealists often synthesize life with dreams.In the 1930’s, after the Surrealist movement had progressed for about a decade, several writers and museum officials repeatedly described Surrealism as having “amusing” and “escapist” elements.Surrealist works cannot be defined by style or form, but rather as results of the practice of surrealism. Rather than a fixed aesthetic, surrealism can be defined as an ever-shifting art form.
Leaders of the Movement: Guillaume Apollinaire and André Breton.
L’age D’or (1932)    

L’Age d’or began as a second collaboration between Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali after their first film Un Chien Andalou. After a falling out it was completed by Bunuel. It is a surrealist work that is a scathing attack on bourgeois society and the Roman Catholic Church. The film consists of a series of interlinked vignettes about a couple who are passionately in love, but cannot consummate their passion because they are constantly thwarted by family, the Church, and society in general. There are violent expressive religious scenes and shocking sexual images as well, such as a young woman performing fellatio on the toe of a statue. There are also excerpts of a short science film about a scorpion cut into the film. It is a strange and unique piece of cinema. Bunuel went on to make many extradordinary films usually with a surreal aspect to them. They include Los Olivados (1950), The Exterminating Angel (1962), Belle de jour (1967), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977).

L’Afe D’or: violent, absurd images

Un Chien Andalou

File:Andalou.jpg File:Cow's Eye.jpg

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 to a limited showing 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.

File:Dali Priest Un chien andalou.PNGFile:Pierre Batcheff in un chien andalou.jpg

In spite of varying interpretations made since the film originated, Buñuel made clear throughout his writings that, between Dalí and himself, the only rule for the writing of the script was that “no idea or image that might lend itself to a rational explanation of any kind would be accepted.”  Moreover, he stated that, “Nothing, in the film, symbolizes anything. The only method of investigation of the symbols would be, perhaps, psychoanalysis.

The aim of Surrealism Cinema: to free individual ideas, let people express themselves freely. it’s a movement of liberty, explore your deep conscious, and reveal your hidden instinct.

Luis Buñuel (1900-1966)

Buñuel calls Un Chien Andalou “a passionate call to murder

Leaders of the Movement: Guillaume Apollinaire and André Breton

André Breton (French 1896-1966)

André Breton was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto (Manifeste du surréalisme) of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as “pure psychic automatism”.
Notes: to break the luxury way of living, to see the corruption behind ordinary daily life,, accept the fantasy for small things, behind these small things reveal the true beauty, reveal what’s behind the daily life, the normal life.
Example: modern cinema Blue Velvet, opening scene
anther example came into my mind: American Beauty
These two movies both show that  behind the shinning surface, there is another evil world, the world delusion the reality. 
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) vader can de psychoanalyse
Comtede Lautreamont (Isidore Ducasse 1846-1870) Les Chants de Moldoror (1868)
Surrealist Strategies in the Fine Arts and Literature
  • Frottage (wrijven)
  • Ecriture antomatique (try to write without thinking, keep the flow, let it go on)
  • Collage (turn two different elements into a third totally different thing, a third meaning)
  • Cadavre exquis (example: project on the wall, cloud; or two pieces of paper, rub one over the other, then leave some trace on the bottom paper)

Surrealism Cinema Characteristics:

Antinarrative: attracting causality itself, many surrealist films teas us to find a narrative logic that is simple absent.

Dream Logic: causality is as evasive as in a dream, events are juxtaposed for their disturbing effect.

Character psychology is nonexistent.

Favorite themes in Surrealist Films:

  • sexual desires
  • Blasphemy.
  • Ecstacy.
  • Vilence.
  • Bizarre Humor.

Stylistic Characteristics of  Surrealism Cinema:

Muse-en-scene: Influenced by surrealist painting

Editing: Amalgam of some Imprssionist devices

(many dissolves and superimposition but  without the story to motivate them, such as day dream etc.)

A-moro: doesn’t want to tell story, but still use some devices, continue editing-invisible editing (logic, space, time , rules seems nature), for to hook the viewers, appear nature, but it’s artificial, even looks nature.


Salvador Pali

Germaine Dulac (1882-1942) 

The Seashell and the Clergyman (1927)

Directed in 1927 by Germaine Dulac and scripted by Antonin Artaud, THE SEASHELL AND THE CLERGYMAN is generally considered to be the first Surrealist film, even if at its Studio des Ursulines premiere, the Surrealist group provoked an uproar that would become one of the great “scandals” of the 1920s.  Along with contemporary musical accompaniments, this DVD edition features a video account of the premiere and a presentation of the film and its importance in the history of cinema and feminism.  Dulac writes: “My entire effort has been to search, in the action of Antonin Artaud’s script, for harmonic points, and to link them through well thought out and composed rhythms.  I can say that not one image of the Clergyman was delivered by chance.”  For Artaud, “It’s a film of pure images.”

This bilingual (French-English) box set with a DVD and a book is an indispensable resource not only for researchers and students but also for enthusiasts who want to learn more about the film.  It offers the possibility to rediscover Germaine Dulac’s famous film in its restored version while it facilitates comprehension of this avant-garde masterpiece thanks to the perspectives opened up by the various artistic and theoretic contributions of the participants.

Max Ernst: illustratie uit La femme 100 têtes 


In 1929 Surrealist artist Max Ernst published the first of a series of collage novels. It was a kind of comic strip, but not a real comic book, selecting fragments of wood engravings from nineteenth-century magazines, encyclopaedias and trivial novels. Some collages parody famous works of art. The newly forged combinations of scientific instruments and floating figures and of landscapes with unexpected interiors guarantee the odd dream world identified so closely with Surrealism. These scenes were praised in the book’s introduction. This was to be ‘the ideal picture book of this age’, and the future was to leap forth from it. ‘Children’s eyes, wide with awe, that open like butterflies’ wings on the shore of a lake’. The time had now come – according to the introduction – for ‘the first hundred visions of fairies’. These prophetic words came from André Breton, the executuve director of surrealism.

why Surrealism stopped?
1 sponsors stopped
2 two leaders changed direction

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