I’ve been waiting for the ultimate Buñuel DVD release and after going through this release it looks like I’m still waiting.
The first disc presents nothing but the film and a long theatrical trailer. Again Criterion has skipped on an audio commentary, which I think would have worked for the film. Maybe there aren’t many Buñuel scholars out there and they can’t find anyone willing to do a track, though I recall Julie Jones’ commentary for Miramax’s otherwise lame DVD for Belle de jour being fairly good. (EDIT: Strike that. After revisiting that track a little while after writing this I was reminded that it is, in fact, a rather awful track.)
The bulk of the features are found on the second dual-layer disc, and total less than two hours.
The big feature is the 97-minute documentary The Last Script: Remebering Luis Buñuel, which follows Juan Luis Buñuel and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere as they travel around the world, visiting spots where Luis Buñuel had visited and had served for inspiration. I had mixed feelings about this documentary and even at this point I’m not sure if I liked it. It really is just the two traveling to these locations and sharing anecdotes with each other or with others who knew the director, some of it interesting, some of it not. And while its intent is to possibly show how Buñuel was influenced through his travels I never really got that. It also quickly breezes through his films, jumping through his Mexican films in a matter of minutes, devoting little time to each, even The Exterminating Angel (though they do pay a quick visit to the house where the film was shot.) Viridiana, interestingly, probably gets more time in this documentary. There’s some good material on here, some good anecdotes (there’s some interesting stuff about Dali and other friends of Buñuel) but overall I was let down by it. Others may be fine with it, but I think I was hoping for something concentrating a little heavier on the film and really didn't get that here, and didn't even get all that eye-opening of a look at the filmmaker.
Thankfully the next couple interviews worked a little better for me. A 10-minute interview with actress Silvia Pinal is maybe the best supplement on here, where she talks about working with Buñuel and on this film. She admits she still doesn’t understand it, but gives an idea as to what was possibly going through Buñuel’s head while making it. She shares stories about the rather brutal shoot, including how the performers were covered with honey and dirt, and also talks about Buñuel’s amusement by some of the symbols people saw in the film (the bear representing Communism for example.)
And the last interview, with filmmaker Arturo Ripstein, who recalls being allowed to be on the set during the making of The Exterminating Angel. Buñuel more or less taught him about filmmaking and the director recalls knowing the man, and his rather cruel handling of the actors on the set. A good pair of interviews offering some insight into Buñuel and the film.
Closing off the release is of course a 36-page booklet, containing an essay by Marsha Kinder, and yet another excerpt from an interview between Buñuel and film critics Jose de la Colina and Tomas Perez Turrent (which can be found spread through all of Criterion’s Buñuel releases.) Again this interview makes for a great read with Buñuel getting into his intentions for the film, comparing it to a Robinson Crusoe sort of tale, and even offering that a lot of it he was making up on the go (the film’s constant repetition wasn’t actually planned) and offers rather simple explanations for everything.
The booklet at least offers some decent analysis of the film, but a commentary would have still been a nice addition, maybe in place of the documentary. 6/10