Luis Buñuel
November 16, 2010 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Regarding Luis Buñuel (Criterion, 1:37, subtitled) "All my life I've been harassed by questions: Why is something this way and not another? How do you account for that? This rage to understand, to fill in the blanks, only makes life more banal. If we could only find the courage to leave our destiny to chance, to accept the fundamental mystery of our lives, then we might be closer to the sort of happiness that comes with innocence." -- Luis Bunuel, "In Curiosity" Bunuel wanted to rebel against the dogmatic structures of the Church that said, There is no salvation or grace outside the Church. He wanted a kind of Protestant surrealism in which grace was directly attainable like in Nazarin or Viridiana -- Carlos Fuentes "He is a deeply Christian man who hates God as only a Christian can and, of course, he's very Spanish. I see him as the most supremely religious director in the history of the movies." -- Orson Welles "I'd like to be able to rise from the dead every ten years, walk to a newsstand, and buy a few newspapers. I wouldn't ask for anything more. With my papers under my arm, pale, brushing against the walls, I'd return to the cemetery and read about the world's disasters before going back to sleep satisfied, in the calming refuge of the grave." -- Luis Bunuel
posted by puny human (23 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
What's the occasion, puny human? Well, I don't care: Bunuel is my favorite director. He thinks about religion the way someone does who was raised in a religious culture and then moves on, but can't completely toss it aside. In addition to "Nazarin" and "Viridiana" (both good movies), there is "The Milky Way", which is both rigorous in its examination of religion and also hilarious, and "Simon of the Desert", which is impossible to describe- you have to see it. All of these are available on Criterion, and bless them for making them available.
posted by acrasis at 4:51 PM on November 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

Ive been reading An Unspeakable Betrayal: Selected Writings of Luis Buñuel.
His poetry is quite beautiful.
posted by ovvl at 5:15 PM on November 16, 2010

El Angel Exterminador. That is all.
posted by gimonca at 6:31 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've not yet seen all his films, but I mostly love what I have seen. While his more overtly surreal pieces get the most press (and are quite wonderful), Diary of Chambermaid never fails to amuse me.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:35 PM on November 16, 2010

gimonca I recently visited the house from El angel exterminador in Mexico City. They made it tiny, since they sold all of the front and back lawn to make rooms for apt buildings. It now serves as a Met Life office.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:43 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

The toilet scene from Bunuel's "Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie".
posted by Faze at 7:49 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

In 1928, Buñuel and Dalí wrote the following letter to Juan Ramón Jiménez, a poet who had sent them a story about a donkey:
Our Distinguished Friend: We consider it our duty to inform you -- of course, disinterestedly -- that we find your work deeply repugnant on account of its immoral, hysterical, and arbitrary character.

In particular, SHIT! on your Platero and I, on your facile and ill-intentioned Platero and Me, less than a proper donkey, the most odious donkey we have ever come across.


Luis Buñuel
Salvador Dalí
Juan Ramón Jiménez, in a state of shock, did not leave his bed for three days after receiving this missive.
posted by blucevalo at 8:03 PM on November 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

To be fair, it is a sanctimonious donkey, and one which a lot of spanish speaking children have been "saddled" with as primary school required reading for generations.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:10 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I happened to be watching a DVD extra to Simon of the Desert about Bunuel's life in Mexico when this was posted.

I teach high school arts students, and there are two artists whom I have just about given up trying to explain: Bunuel and Kafka. (I love them both to an unhealthy extreme.) Unless I was paranoid, I believe I overheard one student telling another last year, "He's a relic of the Twentieth Century." Well, I am. I was born in 1952 and graduated from high school in 1970.

Bunuel's lack of flashy cinematography and his obsession with Catholicism are two strikes against him, I guess. Revolution, too, is not in the early 21st Century American playbook.

Kafka...I don't know where to start. Scholars calling him hermetic is not too helpful. David Foster Wallace tries to explain why he can't get grad students to see that Kafka is funny, but he can't really explain Kafka, either.

But, then, I can't understand why some kids like Bret Easton Ellis so much, so I guess we're even. We find common ground here and there. Gardner's Grendel, for example.

By the way, Bunuel's autobiography is very funny. My Last Sigh. He knew everybody. Back in our century, that is.
posted by kozad at 9:50 PM on November 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

To be fair, it is a sanctimonious donkey, and one which a lot of spanish speaking children have been "saddled" with as primary school required reading for generations.

I didn't post that to castigate or chastise Buñuel. I thought it was marvelous!
posted by blucevalo at 10:55 PM on November 16, 2010

Yes, the autobiography is marvellous. Don't miss it if you have even a passing interest in Buñuel.

Which, if the cinema interests you, you probably should.
posted by Wolof at 1:46 AM on November 17, 2010

Thirding the autobiography, it also contains detailed instructions for producing a proper martini.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:56 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

blucevalo: I was agreeing with him! It's a pretty bad book.

kozad: I have a theory about that. I've taught cinema appreciation classes and people have a difficult time appreciating a narrative which is not packaged in a certain kind of "realism". My students liked Hitchcock's Psycho, for example, but had problems with almost everything else because of a certain theatricality in the acting and some emotional shorthand Hitchcock uses. They couldn't overlook it. They were too used to a way of seeing which implies searching for the weaknesses and the errors in the way "reality" is presented, and so they never let themselves fully enjoy what they're watching. The same thing happens when most people see a movie made before the 1970s.

Even some modern films don't escape this problem. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which was in my mind one of the most original pop films of the year, was loaded with surrealistic elements and was a flop. It was beaten by Silvester Stallone's "The Expendables", which is packaged in the kind of "reality" that modern audiences find acceptable.

A Buñuel film is about letting go and letting yourself be carried by the images, leaving the plot way in the back of your head.

I think part of the problem is the way literature is taught at schools. There's way too much emphasis on plot, and very little on style. Because obviously it's easier to test "What fruit got stuck in Gregor Samsas back?" than, "How is Gregor Samsas back described?". People get used to absorbing a story as if they were about to write the Cliff Notes version of it.
posted by Omon Ra at 5:13 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I believe I overheard one student telling another last year, "He's a relic of the Twentieth Century."

Many authors, artists, and people I love are in this category as well -- I'm not ready to leave that century in the ashbin of history, no matter how desperate some are to scurry away from it like an embarrassing relative. I think Kafka himself would be amused by the sentiment.
posted by blucevalo at 7:42 AM on November 17, 2010

I believe I overheard one student telling another last year, "He's a relic of the Twentieth Century."

Unfortunately, I would cite Buneul as an example of an acclaimed director who's work just hasn't aged well, especially his 70s stuff. I just don't see a lot of the younger film directors talking about him like they would Fellini or Tarkovsky, whereas 25-30 years ago he'd probably be taken more for granted his greatness as a film director.
posted by bobo123 at 12:05 PM on November 17, 2010

Artistically, many things began and many more things ended in the Twentieth Century.

You're on your own, now.

omanra: you're absolutely right about literature in that plot is generally one of its least important elements. Of course, 150 years ago it was one of its most important elements. But in cinema, Bunuel's treatment of plot...that is, his subversion of it to surrealist one of the elements of his genius. But, then, no one really cares much about surrealism anymore. *stifles a sob*
posted by kozad at 1:46 PM on November 17, 2010

Given the state of world affairs I'm not surprised no one cares about surrealism anymore. We live it day to day.

Sometimes I think that The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is, little by little, turning into a documentary.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:31 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Did anybody watch Bunuel and then was ruined for life?

I can't watch many of the acclaimed great directors (Fellini, Welles, Kubrick, Atonioni, and yes, bobo123...Tarkovsky, etc.) without being immensely bored.

I don't know what it is. Bunuel, and usually Herzog, are the only two classic directors I've ever encountered that seem like they're able to speak to me directly by imagery, and don't rely on the standard dialogue or plotlines used by their peers.

Most of their films feel giddily free from the traditional ties to the Elizabethan stage play. I always leave their movies with an odd, near-religious feeling, thinking "seriously, THIS is how a visual medium is supposed to work, motherfuckers!"
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:43 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can't watch many of the acclaimed great directors (Fellini, Welles, Kubrick, Atonioni, and yes, bobo123...Tarkovsky, etc.) without being immensely bored.

I don't consider one type of experience having been ruined for me by another. All of the directors you mention speak to me in different ways at different times because they all exhibit different types of greatness. I saw "Dr. Strangelove" for the 1000th time recently and found something new in it to admire. I always see something new to admire in Welles.
posted by blucevalo at 2:56 PM on November 17, 2010

I think Welles and Kubrick, in particular, were so overhyped to me by the time I got to them (being on about one zillion "best of all time"-type lists, I was disappointed.) So probably some room for letdown there.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:11 PM on November 17, 2010

That's why I hate Top 10 lists The ____ of Justice, ppl end up seeing great movies with the intention of finding out why somebody thought they were great, not because they really want to watch the movie. IMHO one should first surrender to what are thought as masterpieces and then make up our minds afterwards. Otherwise the impuse to go against the critical opinion drowns the experience.

I also have to say that after watching 2001 on the tv for years and finding it a bit cold I had something close to an out of body experience after seeing it on 70 mm film.
posted by Omon Ra at 3:24 PM on November 17, 2010

Luis Bunuel was a 20th century philosopher who worked in the medium of film. Most of his work was not designed for a broad audience. He was a big influence on Graham Chapman.

One really interesting film of his is the repressed scorching Wuthering Heights (Abismos de pasión) (1954) from his Mexican projects. It totally overwhelms the more famous Lawrence Olivier version. Check it out. Irasema Dilián is intense.
posted by ovvl at 5:26 PM on November 17, 2010

can I favorite this whole thing again?
posted by philip-random at 12:41 AM on November 26, 2010

« Older On The Bro'd   |   Poor Xenon. So noble, yet so alone. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments