Before one screening of Un Chien Andalou (1929), a collaboration between filmmaker Luis Buñuel and artist Salvador Dalí, Surrealist pioneers and Spaniards the both of them, Buñuel told the audience, “I do not want the film to please you, but to offend you.”
The famous declaration could be the subtitle to Buñuel’s early career, during which the brash filmmaker repeatedly aimed to disturb the smug comfort of the bourgeoisie. Un Chien Andalou, for example, opens with the slicing of a woman’s eye, a shot that dissolves into the passing of a razor-thin cloud over the full moon and ushers in 15-minutes of then-unprecedented strangeness. (Watch the film in full after the jump.)
The film will screen along with L’Age D’or (1930), also a Buñuel-Dalí collaboration, on Wednesday night at the Miami Beach Cinematheque to kick off the theater’s month-long retrospective, “The Discreet Charm of Luis Buñuel”. The MBC has invited electronica artist Gabriel Pulido to augment the silent films’ soundtracks with his brand of self-described “ambient sound art”.
Though Un Chien Andalou opens with a cautionary title card — “Music as indicated by Luis Buñuel” — Pulido says his live, one-off performance Wednesday night will complement the films.
“I am processing his soundtrack, adding my sounds that go along with that soundtrack,” says the Venezuelan-born composer, who studied music synthesis and film scoring in university.
Un Chien Andalou alternates between tango music and a section from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Wagner also shows up on the soundtrack for L’Age D’or, a 63-minute film of surrealist vignettes generally interpreted as an attack on bourgeoisie prudishness and the Roman Catholic Church. (In one notorious scene, the female lead sucks the toe of a religious statue.) Pulido will accompany the films’ original music with sounds produced on a laptop and two small MIDI recorders, a juxtaposition that Buñuel may have appreciated.
“I’ll be doing a live mix … mixing it with my own music,” he says. “I’m taking into consideration timbre, harmonies, and melodies. I’m sometimes reinforcing some of the music. They didn’t have bass. It would be nice at some points to have that low end, and then I’m just doing something contrasting, adding dissonance to that music just to create a shock, and I think Buñuel [would] be pleased to hear this.”
Of course, Buñuel preferred offending over pleasing, but Pulido says he will respect the director’s original vision.
“I’m looking more for feelings, sensations, mood,” he says. “Film music always creates moods. I’m not falling into Mickey Mouse territory.”
At the Wednesday night screening, Pulido will be selling a limited-edition CD created exclusively for the event. For its part, the MBC is housing an exhibition of vintage Buñuel memorabilia during September. Besides Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or, “The Discreet Charm of Luis Buñuel” will also screen Viridiana (Sept. 8) and The Exterminating Angel (Sept. 22). For full details, visit the MBC website.
Hans Morgenstern maintains a blog on independent film and music called The Independent Ethos. Follow the link to read more of his interview with Pulido.