The Two Most Valuable Films to Me in the History of Cinema Course 313

         Of all the wonderful films our class watched this semester in the History of Cinema course, two stand out in their ability to inspire me over and over again. The films I am referring to are Citizen Kane and Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog). No matter how many times I view these films they hold a certain resonance with me that drives me to concentrate on my own film making abilities. The perfection that I see in Citizen Kane is extremely potent in the left portion of my brain if we look consider these films in the context of lateralization of brain function. On the other hand, or side of the brain if you will, is Un chien andalou, a film that gets the right side of my brain very excited indeed.

         These films are certainly very different in their content as well as structure, and give rise to very different types of cinema. Kane is a very well-thought-out film, whereas andalou is a bit more experimental in nature, giving rise to the impulsive creativeness of the film makers, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali (the world renowned painter). The story of Citizen Kane is a lengthy one that, although fictional, draws from the story of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon who pioneered the concept of yellow journalism.

         Andalou is one of the most well-known films of the 1920’s French avant-garde movement as well as the Spanish Surrealist movement. Unlike Kane, there is no plot, only two characters, a man and a woman that move through a disjointed number of scenes. Dream logic is a concept used in this film as well, drawing on the Freudian idea of free association in an attempt to provoke the viewers.

         Citizen Kane has none of these components. It is well known for its innovative use of lighting and creative sound mixing. Kane moved the cinema forward with these technological innovations and helped to revolutionize modern popular cinema. Many film directors today refer to Welles’s masterpiece when they are making films of their own.

         It is interesting to think of the creative processes that were used to make these films. They were surely very different, relying on different trains of thought all together. Orson Welles, who plays the main character in the film, was also the director, so he had a great deal of control over how the movie turned out. As a director I must give him my regards because this seems like an incredible task. He was at the mercy of none other than himself when relying on an actor to carry a scene. He also had very reliable people on his crew that helped him craft this lengthy picture. There is certainly no shortage of good lighting, sound, and acting. The cinematography at that time was the best, thanks in large part to Gregg Toland, because Welles insisted on it.

         Un chien andalou was conceptualized in a very different way. In spite of varying interpretations, 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" (1). This would seem ludicrous to a Hollywood executive, reading scripts and looking for the next big box office smash.

         Once again I must say that these two films are products of the left brain (Kane) and the right brain (andalou). They ways in which they were brought to the screen vary heavily, and this can be seen when viewing the films side by side. Kane is much more calculated, whereas andalou is puzzling and possibly even ridiculous to some.

Work Cited

Buñuel, Luis (1983). My Last Sigh, Abigail Israel (trans), New York: Knopf, 1983.
Brandon Boyd

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