This week the reading is chapters 3-6 in Fiona Bradley’s Surrealism, which will bring us to a fuller discussion of Surrealism. On Tuesday I would like to finish our discussion of Surrealist painting, since there is still a lot to think about. But then we will transition to think about film, a medium that Surrealism deployed with great élan. We will spend a little time thinking about film’s affinity with the dream, and how Surrealists like Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí tried to make use of the new medium to effect a very different kind of experience through the moving image. We’ll watch the short classic Un Chien Andalou (an Andalusian dog), which was based on dreams by Buñuel and Dalí, and finished in 1929. For such a short work, it remains a classic in cinema and in the history of Surrealism. Buñuel would have a long and illustrious film career, but you can find his Surrealist sense of humor at work well into the 1970s in films like the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty.
The possibility of using film as a medium to recreate the dream experience has long attracted film makers of various kinds. Some, like Alfred Hitchcock, found it useful as a variant in their story telling, as in the case of Spellbound (1945), where the dream sequence appears in the context of film noir (and was supervised by Dalí). Others, like Federico Fellini, could create a whole filmic aesthetic out of an oneiric realism that effectively reinvents an existing genre, specifically the sword-and-sandal flick in Fellini’s case, which he completely deconstructs in Fellini Satyricon. Some of the most memorable dream sequences more recently occurred in the HBO series The Sopranos, where we get in the head of a post-modern mafia don who is much troubled by problems in “the family.”
This week will be about viewing some things together and discussing them, and light on reading as you all have those research projects to complete! The end is near!