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Fear at the hands of technology: The proto-Surrealism of the films of Segundo de Chomn

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This essay explores the ways in which director Segundo de Chomn's films represent a crucial moment of proto-surrealist sensibility in the development of Spanish cinema. Specifically, I show how three of his experimental works El hotel elctrico, Le scarabe d'or, and Une excursion incohrente, in their self-reflexive anxiety regarding modernity, through their cultivation of a nihilist order, and in their blurring of interior consciousness and the exterior world, defy the category of primitive cinema with which they have often been labelled, and stand as a model of radical modernity in early European film. Furthermore, this essay suggests that these films form a previously unrecognised genetic map of Luis Buuel and Salvador Dal's Un chien andalou, through their development of a distinctive visual landscape, and more importantly, through their use of film tricks as a means to underscore the pervasive early-twentieth-century fear of unbridled technology.

Keywords: Segundo de Chomn; modernity; silent film; surrealism; trick film

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The University of Washington, USA.

Publication date: May 19, 2008

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