I was recently perusing the many threads on this site and came across another stupid Michael Bay-bashing thread. And someone declared on that thread that there were tons of Michael Bay/Transformers threads and hardly any on Bunuel or Hitchcock or other legitimate directors.
So this one’s for Bunuel. I’ve only seen The Exterminating Angel, so I guess you can say I’m a newcomer to his art (I did recently purchase Simon of the Desert in B&N’s God-given 50% off sale).
So…do you think he’s the greatest surrealist auteur? What do you think of his use of repetitive sequences in his films? Is his comment on the bourgeoisie heavy-handed? This thread is all about Bunuel and his films. Enjoy!
Oh, this is a very nice thread to see. I personally do not find Bunuel’s comment on the bourgeiosie to be heavy-handed, but rather smartly handled; he knows how to get the finincing for his movies and he doesn’t care who the hell likes them, or who doesn’t. He was kicked out of Spain so many times it seems ridiculous, simply because of what he stated about the upper class. Then again, though, Bunuel did not only make fun of the upper class, but he also focused on people of religion (staunchly relgious people), and really people in general, and their tendencies to do stupid things.
Roger Ebert said that Bunuel liked to point oout how everyone was a hypocrite, but he also liked to point out that he, too, was a hypocrite. I personally thinik one of the best films to see this in is The Phantom of Liberty, a highly amusing, satirical look at the world, with those in power, those with none, and those in between. Really a fun look.
Oh, and, yes, I think he is one of, if not the, great surrealists in the world of film.
You have in your hands my two favorite Bunuel films. First of all you just bought Simon of the Desert, and second all of Los Olvidados is on YouTube. Now I understand if you don’t like watching films on the internet, but I have to say Los Olvidados is too good to wait for it to be released on DVD (this is assuming you live in the US which I really shouldn’t).
Bunuel’s power, indeed, is not how often he criticizes the bourgeoisie, but how often he criticizes the proletariat in the same breath.
I honestly like him most for his use of camera. The guy knows exactly where to place the camera and exactly where it is going to move. Watching his movies, to me, is pure joy because of the blocking. Half the time I forget to care about what he’s talking about. My favorite scene in any Bunuel movie is in The Phantom of Liberty when all of the guests at the inn keep moving from room to room, with doors opening and closing in a dance along with the cinematography, which follows them in or out or doesn’t.
Drew, I’ve never heard of Los Olvidados. I’ll definitely check it out! And I’m looking forward to watching Simon of the Desert.
And Zachary, I need to check out the Phantom of Liberty. And just from what I’ve seen, I also think he is one of the greatest surrealists in film.
Bunuel has seemed to me to be a bit of a rebel. He was able to make such massive comments on class and religion without giving a shit as to what anyone thought. There is an interview with Bunuel in the booklet that accompanied The Exterminating Angel. The interviewers try to analyze every facet and characteristic of Bunuel’s technique, and Bunuel casually answers. They try to make parallels between Sartre’s No Exit and The Exterminating Angel, and he corrects them swiftly. They try to make rational explanations, and Bunuel simply tells them that there is no definite, rational answer. I really admire him.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is my favourite (out of the mere 7 films I have seen).
Have you seen Un Chien Andalou? That is basic viewing for anyone interested in Bunuel.
You can get an excellent Region 1 compatible dvd of Los Olvidados. It’s a little pricey but it’s worth it.
Justin, With subtitles? I found a few online, but they didn’t have subtitles. Who knows, the latest batch of Criterion releases is announced tomorrow, maybe I will be given a nice surprise.
Is it difficult to crack the region code of dvd players in the US?
Yes, Drew, with English subtitles. Same company that put out my copy of Nazarin.
It’s been so long since I went through my Bunuel phase, but I did recently see “The Young One”, and I feel the need to spread the word that it’s great. You can find it in a box set with “Gran Casino”, which I haven’t seen yet. It’s a tight little drama that reminded me in some ways of Elia Kazan’s “Baby Doll”. Check it out if you can.
ok, so I’ve been meaning to create a Bunuel thread for awhile.
I’ve seen 5 of his films: Chien Andalou, The Exterminating Angel, Belle De Jour, Simon of the Desert, and Viridiana. Of those, I liked The Exterminating Angel and Simon of the Desert a lot (and Chien Andalou was enjoyable), but found Belle De Jour and Viridiana really frustrating. A lot of his satirical points really don’t communicate anything to me, they just seem kind of obvious and dated. I’m sure they really meant something to people at the time…I mean, after all, his films did seem to attract a lot of controversy. But for me, as a viewer in 2009, I don’t really see anything that affects me.
I dunno, I waffle on whether I like him or not all of the time. He has an interesting way of presenting whatever he’s being satirical of. I like when his films become really overtly surreal and strange like in the room that no one can leave from in EA or the big pillar Simon stands on in Simon of the Desert. Those are just silly in a way that I like. And I like his perversity. But as someone who’s familiar with fetishes and BDSM-type stuff, it really doesn’t shock me or excite me or anything to see that a repressed housewife wants to be a whore and has sex dreams about being abused.
Viridiana, especially. The first 20-30 minutes I liked, but after that I just got this really frustrated feeling like I was missing something really obvious or important. I used to feel this way when I first started watching a lot of art films. I can’t really articulate myself beyond this, so I don’t know if that’s anything for people to go on, but maybe someone will understand what I mean.
“belle de jour” isnt really about shocking or exciting you. its just a brilliant film about mood, desire, and the like. maybe if you watch it without thinking that bunuel is trying to give you a cheap thrill and you’re one step ahead of him, it might hit you in a different way. definitely watch it without worrying about trying to identify satire. again, dont try to jump ahead of the film. just settle in and give yourself up and let it lead you.
this is by far my favorite of bunuel’s films. everything about it is just smooth and effortless.
I agree with Bobby that there’s an elegance and gracefulness in Bunuel which belies his extreme — disgust? Satire is a good word. A lesser artist would have made sloppier films to match the brutal content.
I also see Liz’s point that sometimes his films depend on an a priori hatred of social institutions like the church or marriage, and if you’ve figured certain things out for yourself already, it can be sort of like talking to that curmudgeonly uncle who only wants to talk about how the IRS and the post office are out to get him.
Not that I see Bunuel as that uncle — Bunuel was sharp and savvy. And though I don’t need to be told that marriage and religion are oppressive hypocrisies, I enjoy seeing it proven again and again in Bunuel’s films. His films are bracing, feel-good reminders of why I’m out of step with society. Or, as Luis himself said, “Thank God I’m an atheist.” Thank God Bunuel is.
Belle de Jour — it would be interesting to hear more female perspectives on this film. Is it old-fashioned? Haneke’s The Piano Teacher has many themes in common with Belle de Jour. But can one ever “have it all?” Wild sexuality by day, respectability by night. Isn’t true love — Belle’s love for Clementi — her actual undoing in some ways. Although Piccoli does show up a bit like a deus ex machina in a victorian novel to exact patriarchal revenge. I don’t know. One of the most daring aspects of the film, for me, is how the cheated-on husband is a very handsome pretty boy, while the beloved illicit lover is “uglier.” The film seems to say that sex and sexual fulfillment are ugly, and that we shouldn’t try to dress them up in fancy virginal white. Maybe that’s as big a “duh” today as Viridiana’s blind inhuman faith in criminals, lepers and sociopaths. Then again, look at all the reality tv shows about people getting married, planning weddings; look at insipid romantic comedies about how everything ends with the glorious wedding, and none of the misery that is statistically sure to follow. Do we still need Bunuel’s critiques? I know I do.
That Obscure Object of Desire is my favorite of his so far. Bought the Criterion and all. I’ve seen that, The Discreet Charm of The Bourgeoisie, Un Chien Andalou and Belle De Jour. I’ll have to agree with the frustration towards Belle De Jour. I just wasn’t as into it as the other stuff. Any recommendations for my next few? I was thinking Exterminating Angel and then The Phantom of Liberty.
I feel like I should list the Bunuel films that I’ve seen, since others here have.
The Obscure Object of Desire
Phantom of Liberty
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Belle du Jour
The Young One
A Woman without Love
Un chien andalou
I list them chronologically, because it’s important to notice how much his style has changed over the years. It’s also important to note that he’s also made what are basically Spanish melodramas with some craft as well (Woman without Love, Gran Casino). Seeing those, I got to watch a skilled and sure-handed technician who can bring out character and story well, even when he’s not trying to make quite such the statements on society he usually does.
Diary of a Chambermaid. The teaming of Bunuel & Moreau is priceless. I love that movie….and why aren’t we petitioning Criterion for Tristana? It’s not available in the US and the BFI DVD is just so-so…actually more than so-so…but still, we need a Criterion version!!!
I have not seen That Obscure Object of Desire, although I wish I have. Is it one of Bunuel’s best, like I’ve heard?
Thanks for the insight, Bobby and Justin. My problem with Viridiana, I guess, is that what happened to her character seemed kind of like it was putting her in her place for being an idealist. I mean, maybe I just don’t have it out for people who are decent enough to believe in the goodness of and commit themselves to serving homeless people. What ended up happening to her really irritated me, not that it isn’t plausible. The film never seems to care that much about her. Belle De Jour I might have to see again, because I remember that things took an interesting turn at the end of that film.
I guess my issue with those two films is that when there’s a lead female character, I want to be able to identify with her in some way, but Bunuel seems less interested in the actual person and more interested in how they’re used. When it’s more obvious to me what the characters really are like in Simon of the Desert or Exterminating Angel, I like it, but like in Viridiana there’s a female character who I want to identify with, it becomes kind of upsetting to me to see her being degraded like she is. But I guess the film is much less about her than it is about other things, she’s just kind of a tool being used (which there’s not really anything wrong with I suppose). And in Belle De Jour it doesn’t really strike me that any woman would act or think quite like that, but I guess that’s not really the point either.
Diary of a Chambermaid
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
The Milky Way
Phantom of Liberty
That Obscure Object of Desire
That Obscure Object is my all time favorite film of his, and it’s the only one of his later works (‘70s) that I really like. Viridiana and Chambermaid I can take or leave, and I love the first two on my list. I think this is because I like his early, blatantly obscure period. I’m not entirely sure why this is; I think it’s because I like having the puzzle of finding out what exactly the message is amongst all the confusing imagery.
In contrast, while the rest of the films on my list are surreal in their own way, I can usually figure them out enough to know what is what. While shot well with storylines that I like (esp. That Obscure Object), the symbolism can sometimes be as subtle as a blow to the head, and I’m usually able to figure them out quickly. That is probably just me, though.
Slightly off-topic: I do love this thread.
What was in the box in “Belle de Jour”?
Buñuel was the first to beckon me to the world of surrealism.
I’ve seen the majority of his later films, but I haven’t managed to see many from his Mexican era. Here are my thoughts on the ones I have seen:
Un Chien Andalou: Essential surrealism viewing.
L’Âge d’Or: Another great surrealist piece, but for me it can’t trump his first.
Las Hurdes: His ‘mockumentary’, complete with dead-pan narration while portraying poverty in the Las Hurdes region.
Los Olvidados: I love this one. Social realism… with touches of surrealism.
Él: What happens when jealousy takes hold…
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz: I don’t know if there are others out there that have watched this, but this is one of my favourites from his Mexican era. A dark comedic twist on murderous ideology versus the actual act of murder. Is one just as guilty if they are continually plagued with the thought of murder, without committing the act itself?
Nazarín: Another favourite from Mexico. Practice what you preach… and a particular type of fruit is especially good for the soul.
Viridiana: My favourite film by Buñuel, tied with The Exterminating Angel. Very ‘blasphemous’ at the time, I can imagine.
The Exterminating Angel: One of his best, if not his best in my opinion.
The Diary of a Chambermaid: I didn’t like this one as much as some of the others actually. A beautiful Moreau stars though.
Simon of the Desert: It would have been interesting to see what Buñuel had in mind for this one since it is technically incomplete I believe, but at the same time I rather prefer it the way it is.
Belle de Jour: Sexual repression. What’s in the box?
The Milky Way: I think you either dislike or like this one, and I belong to the latter of the two. In any case, holy surrealism.
Tristana: Female independence.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: My favourite of his later French films.
The Phantom of Liberty: Haunting surrealism. Missing children, toilets and ostriches — oh my!
That Obscure Object of Desire: Sexual frustration. The end…
@Bookwibble, I’m glad you’re enjoying this thread! I wanted to create it so all the people who love Bunuel could gather and discuss and so that I could learn more about Bunuel and his art.
I guess I should go out and pick up That Obscure Object of Desire and Viridiana
Liz, I see what you’re saying but I don’t think Bunuel is dismissive of his female characters; in fact, they often carry and express the disgust for humanity that seems to be Bunuel’s own feeling. Moreau in Diary of a Chambermaid, Viridiana vis-a-vis Fernando Rey, the shifting women in That Obscure Object of Desire. “Why would I want to window shop with no money? I’d rather stay at home in bed,” one of the women says with memorable anger in That Obscure Object. Even the acolytes in Nazarin are given some human agency.
In Bunuel’s films, everyone is sort of a “tool” — the men perhaps especially. Think of how the beleaguered host in Exterminating Angel actually imagines he’s Jesus Christ being martyred because he’s managed to throw this epically awful dinner party. And both SImon and Nazarin are victims of their piety the same way that Viridiana is a victim of hers.
Also, in Belle, the men seem particularly constrained. Clementi is full of himself, but his socks have holes in them, he’s a really petty crook, at the bottom of the ladder; the husband is a blank, breadwinning cypher; Piccoli is a slave of moral conventions which determine that he act in a certain way, etc. There’s really no one who has freedom in Bunuel’s films — except Bunuel himself, the surrealist creator reimagining the mythic and real landscape of our lives. His films are always, to one dimension or other, about art.
Just finished Simon of the Desert, and I thought it was great! I think my favorite scene occurs after the man is given new hands through one of Simon’s miracles. He doesn’t even thank God; he slaps his child and walks away with his family.
And Justin, I agree with you about freedom (or lack thereof) in Bunuel’s films. Everyone in his films is locked in some sort of societal or religious cell. I think it says a lot about the human condition.
Just finished watching The Exterminating Angel, my first Bunuel film, on Glemaud’s suggestion. I really enjoyed it, it reminded me of a twilight zone episode but didn’t really rely on any sort of ‘fantastic’ story or premise. It’s almost pathetic to see all these wealthy people ‘trapped’ in a room and not even trying to leave and ironic that they’re only ‘helpless’ once the servants leave.
I’m really excited to see more of his work now.
Any thread about Bunuel is always welcome.
Has anybody seen DEATH IN THE GARDEN- from mid-50s? Perhaps it’s a lesser known gem from his canon, but full of Bunuel signature characters and humor, nonetheless. His first collaboration with Michel Picolli, here playing a priest, no surprise! Any dvd availability info will be appreciated.
I’ve only seen 4: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Exterminating Angel, Belle de Jour, and Viridiana. Any suggestions based on the fact that I LOVED all of them?
After The Exterminating Angel he did Diary of a Chambermaid and Simon of the Desert – try those two films.
“obscure object of desire” is a great one too. a beautiful final film from him.