“It’s in my style as homage to Bunuel’s style which is very different.”

Very spare, a couple talky dialogue scenes but mostly quiet, with pillow shots of Paris at night between scenes. Opening titles at the symphony, Husson spies Severine, out to the street, to a bar. Her hotel, a near miss. Back to the bar, Husson confesses what’s on his mind to the bartender – this scene must contain over half the dialogue of the film. Another chance meeting on the street, an invitation to dinner. At dinner Severine wants to know one thing, but Husson plays around, doesn’t tell her. She storms out. A chicken! He pays the servers from her forgotten purse, they clean up after he has left.

Piccoli (right) with the director’s grandson Ricardo Trêpa
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Bulle Ogier also acted in Bunuel’s Discreet Charm
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Piccoli, reprising his Belle De Jour role, was in a pile of other Bunuel films
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N.D. Carlson of Cineaste has a compelling explanation for every part of the film: why it works and what it means… a wonderful analysis.

Sam, as usual, sees something I don’t see, even when I’m seeing what he saw, since it was his favorite narrative film of the year.

M. Dargis calls it “an act of critical violence.”

J. Rosenbaum calls it a “sequel–or tribute, or speculative footnote … more about class and less about sexual desire”

M. Piccoli: “Very often, cinema is indecent. What characterizes Manoel de Oliveira and Bunuel is their reserve. But don’t get me wrong: this reserve allows them to explore the most secret gardens of our existence. They are very modest but very immodest when it comes to shaking the imagination of the audience.”

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First movie Bunuel directed in 14 years, beginning his Mexican period with producer Oscar Dancigers.

Guitar guy in the prison in opening scene glances at the camera a couple times. Not on purpose, was it? Guess I’d have to hear the lyrics to know for sure. Damn cheap Lionsgate paid for an audio commentary but didn’t subtitle any of the songs. Why? It’s a musical. Lyrics might be meaningful. I can understand about half of the spoken Spanish dialogue but hardly any of the song lyrics. Wotever.

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Dreamy Gerardo and his mechanic friend Demetrio break out of prison and go looking for work… meet up with Heriberto, who introduces to Jose Enrique, owner of The National oil field, under siege from evil oil barons who threaten the workers. G & D are naive and need work so they recruit people easily and get the place running again. all is fine until baddie oilman Fabio has owner Jose Enrique killed.

Demetrio takes over the National next. The night before the oil is to start pumping, he goes to the casino and falls for Camelia, same girl J.E. was last seen with, and he too disappears courtesy of Fabio’s goons.

Well, Gerardo isn’t gonna take this anymore. When the beautiful Mercedes, J.E.’s sister, arrives from South America, she gets a job as a singer at the casino in order to find out more. Initially thinks G. is in on the plot, but belatedly teams up with him and helps foil Fabio. In the end she sells the National to the big big oilman, knowing that G has rigged the whole place to explode if he doesn’t make it back on time (and he doesn’t). Poor Heriberto and his kleptomaniac girlfriend Nanette are presumably left back in town with no work, as Mercedes and Gerardo ride the train outta town.

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A few, very few, possibly Bunuelian touches through psychologically meaningful shots… a drunk Gerardo stares at Nanette’s distorted, fading reflection in an ice bucket… a pane of breaking glass is superimposed on the image when G. knocks a guy out. Other than that, this is a very straightforward little studio movie. Looks awfully cheap for a musical, but not in a shoddy way, just in a non-Hollywood scaled-down way. We mustn’t blame Bunuel for the trite flicks he made in order to get by… it’s films like these that got him back in the director’s seat again, directly leading to Los Olvidados a few years later.

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Part of Bunuel’s really good stretch, this came between Viridiana and Simon of the Desert. Glad I finally watched it… probably one of my favorite Bunuel movies now.

After a dinner party, about twenty ridiculous upper-class people (and one waiter) are mysteriously unable to leave the room. And nobody outside can enter the house. They do get out, over a week (and three deaths) later, by recreating the moment when it first happened, standing in the same position they were at 3am the first night. Then they all go to church together and it happens again.

In between, we’ve got chicken feet in a woman’s purse, mountain vistas in the bathroom, dreams and voiceovers, sheep and bears running through the house, morphine, lovers dying mysteriously, and the total breakdown of high society.

Hard to keep track of who’s who most of the time, except for the gay guy who complains a lot. I occasionally recognized Silvia Pinal (the hostess, Tristana). The steward Julio is Simon of the Desert, and a few other actors from this one were in Simon (incl. Silvia as the devil). A couple of these guys were in Bunuel’s early Mexican movies, one woman was in Brainiac, and two people were in Samson vs. The Vampire Women, released the same year!

A Brazillian movie won the Golden Palm at Cannes that year, beating Exterminating Angel, Cleo from 5 to 7, L’Eclisse and The Innocents. The IMDB is probably stretching when it says this movie was referenced in both A Nightmare On Elm Street and The Blair Witch Project.

Katy would not have liked it. Or would she?

Tristana’s (uncle?) guardian decides to start sleeping with her. She has an artist boyfriend. When she gets sick, the uncle has her leg cut off to save her, but when he gets sick, she opens the windows to the cold air and he dies. Also she has dreams where his head is a bell clapper.

Catherine Deneuve is very good as Tristana, and Fernando Rey is good as Don Lope. The movie is dreamlike and slow in that special late-period-Bunuel style that I’ve never appreciated. Pretty okay overall.

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Bunuel’s brief return to Franco-era Spain before escaping back to Mexico and then heading to France. Viridiana (Silvia Pinal, Simon of the Desert‘s devil) is about to be a nun, but her superiors say that first she must visit her benefactor, her widower uncle Don Jaime. The trip seems to be going fine so far.

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But Viridiana is a crappy nun and gets tricked into wearing her aunt’s wedding gown, then gets drugged and put to bed. Don Jaime (Fernando Rey of That Obscure Object and Discreet Charm) tells her she was raped and now can’t return to the convent, but then confesses the truth… she flees and he kills himself.

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Viridiana gets to split the estate with her handsome cousin Jorge (Francisco Rabal of L’Eclisse and Nazarin). She leaves the convent and attempts to make a home for a bunch of beggars. But she’s no good at that either… they take over the house and attack her.

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Viridiana finally accepts her fate and sits down with Jorge and the housekeeper in a menage-a-trois-suggestive final scene.

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Very interesting movie. Glad I played with all the DVD extras and read up a little on it. Not much to say about it, myself, except to repeat unimportant trivia I’ve learned (Sylvia and Juan Luis smuggled the film out of the country to Cannes, where it unexpectedly won).

Severine is the wife of Pierre (Jean Sorel), but is unhappy with him sexually. She’s got a rich fantasy life, though. Sleigh bells and cats and a horse-drawn carriage lead her into rape-fantasies with coachmen, dreams of being tied up and humiliated and made to play dead. Family friend Michel Piccoli (of The Milky Way, Contempt and Diabolik) tells Severine about a brothel, which she hesitantly joins. Hilarity ensues when a customer (Marcel) becomes dangerously infatuated with her, and Piccoli eventually visits the place again, sees Severine there and threatens to tell her husband. In a jealous fit, Marcel shoots Pierre then is killed by the cops. Piccoli sits alone with Pierre, now confined to a wheelchair (and blind?) and presumably tells him Severine’s secret. The coachmen float us away into fantasy once more.

Terrific looking movie and really great performances. It’s got that Bunuel-dream-crawl pacing. Maybe best watched very late at night. Doesn’t make me weary like most Bunuel movies… probably one of my faves. Not as sexy as I’d maybe promised, more bizarre… sense of danger over sensuality, mostly a tense movie. Katy sorta liked it I guess.

Skipping past twenty years, Las Hurdes, the Spanish Filmofono productions and a couple other Mexican movies… to Los Olvidados. I understood that this was one of the pre-60’s movies that Bunuel had the most control over.

Realist drama about a kid named Pedro whose mother barely loves him, if at all, and his friends, thug Jaibo and innocent Big Eyes. When there isn’t violence in a scene, there’s the threat of violence. Even Big Eyes and the little girl pick up a rock or stick and hold it up as if to bash someone’s brains out at one point, then pull back. Jaibo doesn’t pull back, killing a former friend (who supposedly sent him to jail) at the beginning. His crimes catch up with Jaibo, but Pedro’s poverty and lack of parenting and bad associations catch up with him as well.

Well-made movie. Echos of Salaam Bombay (seen a month ago) but with less positivity. Katy liked it pretty well, but watched the clock more than the screen.

Financed by the same guy who produced Blood of a Poet, it turns out. This one’s harder to remember than Un Chien Andalou for some reason. So…

Scorpion documentary intro (commentary guy leads us to believe that like a scorpion’s tail, the film is composed of five segments, ending in a sixth that is filled with poison), then bunch of decrepit guys in a shack hike away to fight the bishops, then group of people stumble upon the dead bishops. Group gets upset at our couple and takes the man away (who angrily kicks a dog). Possibly the first poop joke in the movies. Group lays cornerstone for what will be Rome.

L'age d'Or 1

Man kicks a violin down the sidewalk and guy with bread on his head walks through a field, while our man is being led down the street and our woman (speaking with sync sound) kicks a cow out of her bedroom. After she sees visions in her mirror, he kicks a blind man and escapes.

L'age d'Or 2

During a grand party at which the groundskeeper kills his son (to the approval of everyone present) and a fire kills a maid, our couple reconnects. During a concert after the party, the two sneak off to the garden to suck each other’s fingers and develop foot fetishes with statues. The minister of the interior shoots himself after a phone call and ends up on the ceiling, then it’s another touching scene in the garden. But our woman leaves our man for the conductor of the concert. The man hits the bedroom in a rage, spraying pillow feathers everywhere and tossing priests and burning trees out the window.

L'age d'Or 3

Finally, a Jesus-like man and three guys with fancy hats emerge from a 120-day orgy at a chateau. Jesus returns briefly to the chateau to kill a woman, losing his beard in the process. A bunch of scalps hang on a cross. The end.

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Pretty interesting movie, and really fun in parts. The commentary actually helped on this one, too.