Buñuel In Mexico double-feature

Susana (1951)

Big, obvious drama with overbearing music and vaguely supernatural elements. Not as excitingly Bunuelian as I would’ve liked, but way better than Gran Casino.

Susana (Rosita Quintana, who was still acting in 2005, if IMDB is to be believed) is locked in solitary at the sanitarium for misbehaving, in the company of rats and an awesomely fake-looking rubber bat; begs God for mercy and the jail bars come loose. Not as impressive as in The Rapture, but it’ll do. She crashes at the first place she finds, a peaceful ranch, and gets herself in with the family to wreak havoc from within.

Susana with ranch-hand Jesus: Víctor Manuel Mendoza, who went on to appear in some Hollywood westerns:

Felicia the maid doesn’t trust Susana from the start (her line, about the storm outside, “it seems there’s a demon loose out there” comes right as Susana’s face appears in the window), but Susana seduces all the men in the house: Jesus, Don Guadelupe (Fernando Soler, star of El Gran Calavera and Daughter of Deceit around the same time) and bookish son Alberto. Actually it doesn’t seem like she seduces Jesus, it more seems that he’s a slimy rapist stalker, but I’ll take the movie’s word for it. Dona Carmen, the woman of the house, eventually realizes what’s going on and joins the maid in trying to eject the interloper – but is it too late? Another rainstorm scene where S. brushes her hair in the window in silhouette while all three men watch her from different positions. Susana confronts Dona Carmen and says if Guadelupe is forced to choose, he’ll choose Susana. Jesus is kicked out of the house: one less rival for Don Guad’s affection. Finally the cops catch up with Susana and take her away, Jesus is hired back, and Don Guad’s prize horse, which had been sick since the initial storm, miraculously recovers.

Susana and Alberto hide in the well:

Very decent acting and cinematography (Jose Ortiz Ramos, who later shot the classics Brainiac: Baron of Terror and Samson vs. the Vampire Women). Bunuel likes to shoot Susana’s legs, incl. one weird scene where Jesus breaks the eggs she’s holding and they run all down her legs.

NY Times: “Though the movie means to be steamy, Bunuel is apparently more amused than shocked by Susana’s brazen ambition and the no-nonsense way she goes about her conquests. Toward the end, when the traffic in and out of Susana’s bedroom is fairly heavy, the movie has the manner of a grandly operatic farce.”

Deleuze says some quizzical shit about “the intrinsic qualities of the possible object.” I don’t know what that means, but three different sites I checked called this Bunuel’s worst movie (or his “most unspectacular” or “fairly insignificant”) – have they never seen Gran Casino?

Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal for a Crime), or,
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955)

It’s the Mexican Revolution! Little Archibaldo’s mother acts like it’s a huge inconvenience that her theater date has been canceled because the revolution has arrived in town. Archie, alone with the nanny, wishes upon a music box for the nanny’s death and she’s immediately killed by a stray bullet through the window. Years later a grown Archie (Wuthering Heights star Ernesto Alonso) is threatening nuns with a razor when one runs down the hall and falls down an open elevator shaft. The movie carries on like this, Archie indirectly causing people’s deaths or not causing them at all, and thinking he’s got some unholy power via the magic music box, which he reacquires as an adult, buying it out from under a cute girl.

Archibaldo in triplicate with his killer razor:

Lavinia glimpsed through a wall of flame:

The cute girl, Lavinia (Miroslava, who killed herself before the movie was released) becomes wealthy Archibaldo’s full-time fascination. He buys a mannequin made in her image (she models for artists) and poses it around his house, then watches it melt in his kiln (he’s a part-time sculptor) when she angers him. Having taken his revenge on the fake Lavinia, he proposes to pretty young innocent Carlotta – but she has been seeing a guy named Alejandro. Archie’s revenge-fantasies kick in again (shades of fellow murder-comedy Unfaithfully Yours) and he dreams of shooting the cheating woman dead in their marital bed after the wedding… but Alejandro shows up to the wedding and shoots her instead.

Cut to framing-device authority figure (was it a psychiatrist or an officer of the law?) who says he can’t lock Archie up for dreaming people dead. Archie seems bummed that he isn’t believed to have done anything wrong, but runs into Lavinia, the girl who survived his wrath, and walks happily away with her.

Legs of the nanny:

Leg of the dummy (Tristana, anyone):

I wasn’t expecting a lot after Susana, but this was excellent. V. Canby in the NY Times agrees. “The sight of the boring, but very pretty, governess lying dead on the carpet, her skirts in a tangle around her upper thighs, makes a lasting impression on the boy, who thereafter goes through life confusing love, death and sexuality. … Archibaldo is a very polite, considerate and wise nut, aware of almost everything except that he is the inevitable (in Buñuel’s view) product of religious and sexual repression.”

Carlotta in her final moments: