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Simon of the Desert
August 11, 2011 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Simon is a deeply religious man in the 4th century, who wants to be nearer to God, so he climbs a column. The devil wants him to get down on earth an is trying to seduce him. But Simon recognizes him every time. So the devil takes him to a nightclub in New York of the 1960s (1965, 43 minutes, with English subtitles).

The above description is a bit simplistic, skipping over the story's nod to St. Simeon Stylites, the pillar-hermit, and the fact that this was the final movie in Luis Buñuel's Mexican period. This film has been called Buñuel's wittiest and funniest film, and a preemptive criticism for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, but those reviews pale to the write-up by Michael Wood for Criterion, in which you may learn that the abrupt ending due to limited funds: the producer ran out of money after five reels.

See also: Luis Buñuel, previously.
posted by filthy light thief (20 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
So the devil takes him to a nightclub in New York of the 1960s.

Well, if you really want someone to get down...
posted by rusty at 1:19 PM on August 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oddly enough, the 1960s nightclub is playing the New Pornographers!
posted by benzenedream at 1:33 PM on August 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


This one got me turned on to Bunuel. The ending is abrupt because they had to end shooting early, however. There's so much good stuff in this movie that talking about it is rather pointless. Watch it, and watch it again later. Then, some time down the road, watch it again.

Anyway, "I hear him at night!".
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:48 PM on August 11, 2011


(Oh, I see you mentioned the abrupt ending in the [more inside] already.)
posted by Horselover Phattie at 1:49 PM on August 11, 2011


A few years ago, I ended up in Syria looking at the remaining nub of the column that Saint Simon used to live on. According to the guide, he inspired quite a few followers and people came from all over to touch his pillar and large religious complexes were constructed around the pillar that the saint lived on (while they were still living up there trying to get away from it all). Apparently it was very trendy in early Christianity to go live on top of a pillar for years at a time, preferably an outdoor pillar that was high off the ground. It always struck me as pretty odd, but then again, this was around the same time that self-castration was also very trendy for early Christians.

Nice to see that this very odd practice got made into an even odder movie.
posted by SeanOfTheHillPeople at 2:25 PM on August 11, 2011


Horselover Phattie - yup. The linked Criterion article has a bit more information on that aspect, and lots more.

SeanOfTheHillPeople - the link after the break talks about the pillar hermits. It claims that Simeon was the first to live on a pillar, after working his way up through increasingly intense efforts of endurance, starting with passing the whole of Lent without eating or drinking.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:32 PM on August 11, 2011


people came from all over to touch his pillar

Fnarr! Fnarr!

(Buñuel is wonderful though - I've managed to miss out on this one for some reason, so I'm looking forward to watching it.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:38 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is great, thanks!
posted by dontoine at 2:44 PM on August 11, 2011


Great links! Bunuel's version of the pillar saint sounds rather like Alfred Tennyson's.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:24 PM on August 11, 2011


Simon of the Desert is the inspiration for this awesome video for "The Laws Have Changed" by the New Pornographers, which shows Simon and the Devil at a nightclub.
posted by Seppaku at 3:52 PM on August 11, 2011


It's perfectly natural that we'd be interested in the life of a man who pared down his existence to such perfection of vision that he lived quite happily on the top of a pillar for nearly 50 years.

St Simeon is more relevant to what is happening in the world today than at any other time in the sixteen centuries since he lived.
posted by weston at 4:48 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The devil's self-propelled coffin also gets a little nod in the video for Beck's early hit, Loser.
posted by chambers at 5:12 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is actually one of my favorite films. It is hilarious and filled with references. Back when I originally saw it (in the Madrid home of one of my professors, a man who was a personal friend of Buñuel's), I could not find a copy for less than gouged prices. Glad to see it is available for viewing now. I'll have to watch again very soon.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:02 PM on August 11, 2011


I really have to thank all of you for bringing this film, and all of the comments and links, back into my mind. Somewhere, a long time ago, I saw this film when I was way too young to really get into it. I can't remember where or when, just that it had to be before I was 12 or so. Probably during some late night channel surfing I did back then on those huge, old C- and K-band satellite dishes that would pick up all sorts of odd international feeds. I had completely forgotten about it, and watching it tonight was like seeing some old, weird dream I had once presented to me on my screen. I'll be thinking about this film for quite some time.

And Weston, that 'Uncorked' film was quite nice. Had I not been introduced to it with this context, I probably might have passed on ever seeing it, and miscategorized it as too much of a feel-good, saccharine, my-kooky-family upper-class melodrama romance movie, at least from just looking at the trailer, and never gave it a chance. It may well be a feel-good my-kooky-family upper-class melodrama romance movie in the end, but it's not pandering or saccharine, and even suspicious, pessimistic old me had a good time watching it and was glad I found out about it here, in this context.

All in all, it's one of those 'right post at the right time' moments, and I really dig that. Thanks.
posted by chambers at 7:48 PM on August 11, 2011


Some Hindu's still do stuff like this but even stranger feats of endurance in the name of connecting with the spirit(s) and/or free food and drink for life.
posted by stbalbach at 7:56 PM on August 11, 2011


My favorite Metafilter posts are the ones that remind me of when someone shares an interesting item at a dinner party and delightful nerdiness ensues. This post is one of those.
posted by Toecutter at 7:59 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ordered this for the library where I work a few months back. It was great to see a Bunuel film in pristine, crystal-clear form-- it looked like it was shot yesterday.
posted by Rykey at 8:24 PM on August 11, 2011


Another movie should have the main characters being forced to sit on an airliner next to a man who has spent the last few decades camping on the top of a pillar.
posted by pracowity at 10:23 PM on August 11, 2011


Also.
posted by pracowity at 10:29 PM on August 11, 2011


Weston, that 'Uncorked' film was quite nice. Had I not been introduced to it with this context, I probably might have passed on ever seeing it, and miscategorized it as too much of a feel-good, saccharine, my-kooky-family upper-class melodrama romance movie, at least from just looking at the trailer, and never gave it a chance. It may well be a feel-good my-kooky-family upper-class melodrama romance movie in the end, but it's not pandering or saccharine

Glad you liked it -- I think it's a special film. The trailer is terrible, but then again, lots of trailers are, and I think the movie is actually pretty hard to sum up and very easy to miscategorize. Kooky family upper-class melodrama romance is all true, but there's a... spiritual, I think, core of the film that is simultaneously earnest and yet clearly doesn't take itself too seriously which adds a dimension that I'm not sure how to characterize.
posted by weston at 8:18 AM on August 12, 2011


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