Tag Archives: Luis Buñuel

XL Popcorn – Viridiana

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 797/1007Title: Viridiana
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1961
Country: Spain/Mexico

So, with Viridiana watched, that leaves me with one single solitary Buñuel film left on the 1001 list to see: Tristana. I guess I will have to save that for the final descent into the finishing line as it would be a bit weird to finish one of the big directors on the list with so many films left to go. Viridiana is the eighth of his nine entries on the list that I have watched. Whilst it doesn’t get to the level of The Exterminating Angel or feature as magnetic as lead as Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour, this is certainly a film that has given me pause.

Then again, I don’t think there has been a single Buñuel film that hasn’t given me something to chew on. Even the films of his that I walked away not quite getting – like Los OlvidadosI’m left thinking about it long after the credits roll. It’s like he is the expert in cinematic homework and you are more than glad to take on board.

With Viridiana, Buñuel creates a film devoid of the usual absurdist slant (although the infamous paupers Last Supper scene is getting close) and instead focuses on the topics of piety, religion and charity. At the centre is the titular Viridiana who, before taking her vows as a nun, is ordered by her mother superior to make a visit to her only living relative. This relative turns out to be a non-blood uncle who proposes to her and ends up drugging her with a mind to rape her.

This is all in the first act which ends suddenly in his death and her having to stay behind to manage the property, which results in her piety and charity being taken advantage off and utterly destroyed. I’m not entirely sure, having watched this film, what this therefore makes Buñuel’s stance on charity or piety. The only thing I think can be gleaned with any certainty is a critique of charity for the sake of charity as there are always those who will exploit a person’s generosity or naivety.

I was hoping to get to 800 films before the year was out, but given how close the end of 2019 is it may not happen. Maybe in 2020 I’ll be able to get more than 50 done and thus be on track to finish this list before I turn 35. I can but hope.

XL Popcorn – The Exterminating Angel

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 778/1007Title: El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel)
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1962
Country: Mexico

Well, I needed a film to break the recent string of ‘blah’ 1001 films that I’ve been through, and I’m so glad to say that not only did The Exterminating Angel end that streak but it managed to provide so much food for thought during the next few days. I knew that Luis Buñuel would be more than up to the task of breaking the streak, but I thought the same of John Ford and we all know how little I thought of Rio Grande.

I don’t even know where to begin with talking about The Exterminating Angel. It’s such a small story that primarily takes place in one room (which made it a prime candidate for a stage adaptation as the 2016 opera version demonstrates) and yet it begs so many questions as to how to interpret the actions.

To give a brief synopsis, the film is essentially about a group of Mexican members of the bourgeoisie who are trapped in the room of a mansion after the conclusion of a party. However, there’s no real reason for them to be trapped – they all have the same psychological affliction that prevents them from setting foot across the threshold and so are unable to get food or water (there’s also no bathroom… but Buñuel never delves into that difficulty).

It’s such a weird idea for a film, but it makes for something incredibly interesting to watch and then discuss. You see, it’s never explained why they end up trapped in this room or why the eventual solution works, but there are many ways that people have come to interpret it’s meaning. No matter the interpretation, it’s still incredibly interesting (in a blackly comedic way) to watch as the veneer of manners melt away and people are left as their true and more animalistic selves. In a way, you can think of it as The Lord of the Flies, but with rich people.

Luckily for me, there are still two Luis Buñuel films left on the list for me to see. So far his works have been a bit of a mixed bag for me, but they’ve always been interesting to watch. I guess I’ll need to wait and see what Viridiana and Tristana have to offer.

XL Popcorn – Belle de Jour

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 633/1007
Title: Belle de Jour
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1967
Country: France

Well, I had to break my recent streak of American films at some point. Probably helped that I haven’t listened to a movie podcast for a while and had the urge to follow-up with a viewing. So why not a French movie starring one of my favourite French actresses?

Going into this I had no idea what Belle de Jour was about. All I knew is that this was likely to be interesting (because of Luis Buñuel) and not be like any of the new wave French films that continue to turn me off. I probably would have known more about this film if I had ever watched The Secret Diary of a Call Girl.

To cut a long story short, Belle de Jour is a film about a bored housewife (that daydreams about being sexually dominated) who becomes a prostitute. So that her husband doesn’t find out she only does this the afternoon, thus earning her the name ‘Belle de Jour’, or ‘Lady of the Day’. As with all things, the moment she gets into it and starts to enjoy it everything starts to fall apart.

One thing that’s interesting about this film is how you spend so much time in Belle’s head that you are not always sure of whether you’re in the real world or in one of her fantasies. Usually it’s clean cut, but there are times (such as the ending) where it feels ambiguous. My favourite instance (which was also the weirdest) of this was when her client asked her to pretend to be his dead sister lying in a coffin so he could get his rocks off. As an audience member I think I was as confused as she was.

I really did enjoy this film, even if just for the interesting take on suburban prostitution. It’s nowhere near as risque as In The Realm of the Senses (then again… what is). I’ve also got to thinking that Belle de Jour is the third Catherine Deneuve film I have seen for the list after Repulsion and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. With her talent and her looks it is little wonder that she still has a number of films on the list yet for me to see. Who knows, maybe  either The Last Metro or The Umbrellas of Cherbourg will be the next film I see.

XL Popcorn – Once Upon A Time In America / L’Age D’or

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Once Upon A Time In America
Director: Sergio Leone
Year: 1984
Country: Italy/USA

Since I have all the time in the world (well not quite, but you know) it makes sense for me to continue crossing off some of the longer films on the list. So far there has been Shoah, Jeanne Dielman and La belle noiseuse and now an English film of epic length.

Clocking in at 3 hours 49 minutes I can see why distributers in the US would have been cagey about this film. I can also see why they would have wanted to have it edited down, but by the sounds of it they should have just left well enough alone… apart from that scene in the car with Noodles and Deborah. Once I saw the way that was going I just had to fast-forward through that. That was just horrible and how dare Sergio Leone play such a sorrowful music afterwards as Noodles walks away. One of those rare times I actually took time out for an Intermission despite this being a DVD.

It was this scene (and maybe 20 other minutes that could have been cut) and the general misogyny of the film that prevented me from giving this film a perfect score. So let’s start with the positives.

The score. I think we can all agree that Ennio Morricone should have won an Oscar way before his win in February for The Hateful Eight. The score for Once Upon A Time in America is not as good those he wrote for Once Upon A Time In The West or The Good, The Bad & The Ugly but then again how many are? Exactly. The music is what holds this entire film together across the five decades of Noodles’ life. He actually finds a way to use panpipes effectively in the score for a Prohibition-era gangster movie. That’s the level of talent Morricone is working with.

Now performances. Obviously Robert DeNiro knocks it out of the park as he always seemed to do in the 70s and 80s, so I’m going to focus on two other great performances: James Woods as Max and Tuesday Weld as Carol. Also, a fantastic job by the child actors in the first hour of the movie. Usually a section that is predominantly child actors can feel incredibly stilted, but some of these scenes were amongst my favourite of the movie. A massive well done to Sergio Leone for that and for this movie in general.

Finally, there is the opium smoking scenes and the interpretaions that this has led a number of cinema goers to have with regards to the 1960s parts of the film. How it may be possible that nothing we see of the older Noodles is real and is just a drug-induced fantasy. A way for Noodles to cope with all of his loses and as a way for him to make up for all the mistakes he has made. I don’t know how much I would go for this, but it’s a nice talking point.

Overall this stands as my favourite of his films and, barring a re-watch and a reevalation of his other films, will likely remain so.

LAge-dOrTitle: L’Age D’Or
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1930
Country: France

Again I am pairing up one of the longest films with one of the shortest films. Of the nine Luis Buñuel films on the 1001 list this is the fifth that I have seen (after Un Chien Andelou, Las Hurdes, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and Los olvidados) and it is probably the one that I got the least. As much as I hated some of the scenes in Las Hurdes at least I understood some of the meaning without resorting to Wikipedia.

L’Age D’Or still managed to get some laughs out of me. It is meant to be a surrealist comedy after all and the idea of something that is nonsensical but funny does appeal to me a great deal. For example, the cow standing on the bed that is then escorted out of the bedroom to the noise of a very loud cowbell – this really tickled me and I guess that was because of the absurdity of it all.

On the opposite side of that is the soldiers right at the beginning or the couple “wrestling” in mud. I am still not entirely sure what the point of those were. My best guess is that they somehow fit into the surrealist aesthetic that Buñuel was constructing.

One thing that is clear about L’Age D’Or is how the director uses this film to mock the upper classes. I now know that the last sequence is meant to liken Jesus to a character from a Marquis de Sade novel, but I didn’t get that allusion at the time of watching… which means he is also attacking the Church. I guess that would explain why the producers of the film were threatened with ex-communication. Or not. If anything the outrage and the banning that followed just cemented this film’s place in cinematic history.

It’s one of those films that anyone who is interested in cinema should see as it offers a crash course in surrialism. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but then again I am not turned on by the toes of marble statues.

Progress: 526/1007

XL Popcorn – Jeanne Dielman / Los Olvidados

So continueth the dictated film reviews! Damn this wrist!

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Director: Chantal Akerman
Year: 1975
Country: Belgium

In many ways, watching Jeanne Dielman is a bit of a comedown after watching Peking Opera Blues. We go from the pageantry of the Chinese opera house to the humdrum of a Belgian widowed housewife. Over the course of 3 hours 20 minutes we watch three days in the life of a selfless woman.

That’s what she is; utterly selfless. In order to pay for the upkeep of her son and her home she prostitutes herself out. By the way that the director uses long shots to depict daily chores in real time you are under the impression that things have been like this for the majority of the six years since her husband’s death.

It’s one of those films where we ask the question: is everyday life art?

Watching it whilst knowing the conclusion means that you spot things you might not do. For example, because I know that on the second day parts of her mundane façade start to crumble the fact that she forgot to put the lid back on her money pot really stuck out to me.

It has been said that men lead lives of quiet desperation. If that is true, what the hell are you calling Jeanne Dielman’s life. I mean, there’s not exactly a lot of warmth coming from the son that she daily has to prostitute herself to keep happy.

Similar to Shoah this is a hard film to give a rating to. There is a strange magnetism from watching the life of an everyday person when you know they’re going to commit something out of the ordinary. I guess that is why people watch The Real Housewives… but this somehow feels less scripted.

los-olvidados-11Title: Los Olvidados
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1950
Country: Mexico

I’m not sure how long I will be able to keep this run of unique countries going, but I’m going to do my damnedest. The year is 1950 and we’re looking at child poverty in Mexico City. It is an exercise in realism with child actors taking on roles of, essentially, street thugs. It feels like a precursor to the Brazilian film City of God in that it is unflinching in its portrayal.

Considering that this film comes from the master of surrealist movies Luis Buñuel it is impressive to see something so real. The again he did direct Land Without Bread so I am not exactly surprised. The surrealist tricks to creep in every now and then. For example, there is a very trippy slow motion dream sequence involving a slab of meat and a billowing white dress. There is also a moment when an egg is thrown directly at the camera.

I can see why, at the time, the Mexican film boards were not too pleased with of such a honest and negative portrayal of their capital. Then again if this is such an issue then it should be solved, surely? He actually portrays the Mexican government official as a caring man. He could have been Pedro’s salvation if only the streets of Mexico City had allowed it.

It is a real thinker of a movie. The scale is wider than Jeanne Dielman, however they are as affecting as each other.

Progress: 476/1007

Ebert’s Greats – The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

List Item: Watch Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies”
Progress: 172/409

discrete charm of theTitle: Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)
Director: Luis Buñuel
Year: 1972
Country: France

I am not a stranger to the world of surrealist cinema. I have already seen, and enjoyed, the likes of Le Chien Andalou, Glory to the Filmmaker! and Mulholland Drive. With this being the third film I have seen by Spanish-born director Luis Buñuel (the others being Le Chien Andalou and Land Without Bread) I also had an idea of what to expect meaning I would not be caught too much off-guard. Needless to say, this film is weird.

If I had to describe the plot in one sentence it would be: a bunch of middle class people fail to have their dinner on a number of occasions due to increasingly outlandish reasons. The thing with this description is that is doesn’t exactly take into account the use of dream sequences, ghosts and a framing shot following the six friends on a walk through the countryside to… God only knows where.

The idea of a film set around the various failed attempts to have a dinner doesn’t exactly sound like the basis for a decent comedy. This is especially so since it is very likely that everything in the film is just the various daydreams of one of the characters during their long country walk. I mean how else would you explain a tea-house without any available beverages or the retelling of dreams by an obviously disturbed army lieutenant? Then there is the bishop being employed as a gardener who takes vengeance on the man who killed his parents, a cocaine smuggling ring out of the office of the embassy of the fictional South American country of Miranda.

In the end it is very hard to right about this film due to the multiple interpretations it offers and the fact that it is, in many ways, slightly batshit. It’s a reminder that as a viewer our perspective is completely at the whim of the director and that with witty writing and all-round great performances from the central and peripheral cast. It’s something that is only really best talked about with someone else who has seen the film.So if you have please leave a comment since… I need someone to talk to about this film.