Study Guide

Bijou

by Stuart Dybek

Bijou Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator announces the screening of a foreign art film at a festival. The film challenges the audience in several ways; it is shot in black and white, with unpredictable light values, so that it often appears as a negative. Shades of gray are rarely used, and the narrator speculates that in the tropical country where the film was made, everything is vibrantly colored so that “even vanilla ice cream is robin’s-egg blue.” Black, white, and especially gray are colors that the narrator apparently associates with the West, industrialized Europe and the United States.

The film’s “only acknowledged influence” is an obscure poem by Victor Guzman, “the late surrealist dentist of Chilpancingo” in Mexico. Guzman’s poem “Laughing Gas” has given the director his inspiration for its one source of color, that of tongues. Eventually, the narrator says, the screen becomes “nearly technicolor with tongues.”

Although the narrator describes the violent film—which tells of a failed guerrilla revolt against an oppressive military regime aided by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—in some detail, it apparently has no plot. The most lurid moment of violence concerns the tearing out of the prisoners’ tongues when they refuse to talk. The tongues, which bleed in various colors, are kept in a coffee can on the brutal colonel’s desk. A young private vomits as he buries the can the next morning, and then the sound diminishes until...

(The entire section is 468 words.)