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10 Lessons We Learned From Filmmaking in the 1920s


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Cinema Can Be Art
In 1929, Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel collaborated with Salvador Dali to create "Un Chien Andalou," a shocking surrealist film. RDA/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
In 1929, Spanish filmmaker Luis Bunuel collaborated with Salvador Dali to create "Un Chien Andalou," a shocking surrealist film. RDA/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When the developing technology of film crossed paths with the modernist avant-garde movement, there were extraordinary results. While Russian constructivists like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov were experimenting with film techniques under the guise of making Soviet propaganda films, the European avant-garde also began playing wildly with the medium.

The power of the documentary image together with the "radical juxtapositions of time and space allowed by montage" were irresistible factors for artists like Man Ray, Albert Kahn and Luis Bunuel [source: Nichols]. Perhaps the most famous work to come out of that period is "Un Chien Andalou," a 1929 collaboration between Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel. Nearly a century later, the surrealist film still holds the power to shock. A scene involving a razor and an eyeball has been called "the most notorious opening sequence in movie history" [source: Hoberman].

Made just a year later, its sexually explicit sequel, "L'Age d'Or," was so incendiary it provoked riots when screened and was quickly banned by the Paris police. If nothing else, the response serves as an early demonstration of film's power as an artistic medium [source: Hoberman].