The Rear-View Mirror: Un Chien Andalou (1929)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

It still gets me, that scene. I think I must have been ten or so, and there was nothing to prepare me for what would come on the telly. No-one in my family was any kind of art-house movie nut, so it must have been a coincidence that Buñuel’s short Un Chien Andalou was on. And then that razor cuts through the woman’s eye. It took me days to recover. Not many other movie moments have stayed with me because of their violence, and none as long as this one.

I am sure I am not the only one to be so afraid of that moment. There are people who curl at the sight of specific on-screen violence, others cannot watch any underwater scenes without gasping for air. Me, I usually don’t cringe at on-screen violence; I find bad use of music or bad casting much more cringe-inducing than violence, if it is not too gratuitous. The razor scene is so memorable, not just because it is gory in itself, but because the whole movie is so surreal: there is no real story leading up to it, no warning, and no explanation afterwards. It is just there, like the dead horses on top of the pianos. Buñuel and Dalí, intentionally or not, for better or worse, could have made movie history with those few razor-sharp seconds alone.

I went to the ophthalmologist last year for a regular check-up, complaining about my contact lenses because they didn’t do their job properly anymore, and he said: “So you’re 48?” I nodded, slightly surprised, and he replied: “Well, at 48, your eyesight changes. You can almost mark your calendar.” He was right: I’ve had trouble reading the back of DVD cases, especially in the evening. Running times of certain movies are sometimes hidden in the small print on the back, and I had to buy a pocket-size flashlight in order to read such small fonts.

I am certainly not going blind, but my eyes are worse than just two, three years ago. While everyone is afraid of going blind, whether completely or partially, I wonder if that fear has a higher average for movie buffs. So when I moisten my lenses at the movies just before the main show, or in front of my telly, it’s not the spoon scene from Utopia, it’s not Daryl Hannah in Kill Bill Vol. 1, it’s that razor scene from Un Chien Andalou that conjures itself up before my inner eye.

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

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