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PostPosted: Sat Feb 12, 2005 10:08 pm 

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That Obscure Object of Desire

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Luis Buñuel’s final film explodes with eroticism, bringing full circle the director’s lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Buñuel regular Fernando Rey plays Mathieu, an urbane widower, tortured by his lust for the elusive Conchita. With subversive flare, Buñuel uses two different actresses in the lead—Carole Bouquet, a sophisticated French beauty, and Angela Molina, a Spanish coquette. Drawn from Pierre Louÿs’s 1898 novel, La Femme et le Pantin, That Obscure Object of Desire is a dizzying game of sexual politics punctuated by a terror that harkens back to Buñuel’s brilliant surrealistic beginnings.

Special Features

- New high-definition transfer, enhanced for 16×9 televisions
- Video interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière
- Excerpts from Jacques de Baroncelli’s 1929 silent film, La Femme et le Pantin, an alternative film adaptation of the book on which Buñuel based his film
- Reprinted interview with director Luis Buñuel
- Theatrical trailer
- Optional English-dubbed track
- New and improved English subtitle translation
- Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 14, 2005 8:12 pm 
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As far as the two actresses are concerned, I've read several books now about that subject and all of them say there was no pattern to their use at all - Bunuel simply used the one he preferred in each scene. I think it ends up working quite well, and it's easy to see how each of the women's individual strengths adds to the scenes they are in. Imagining the other actress playing the scene gets hard - can you imagine that lithe French thing getting naked in front of him with the same fervor that the Spaniard gives us?

Like all the bourgois characters in Bunuel's film, Rey's character is simultaneously hideous and pitiful - as much a victim of his own social, economic and sexual violence as he is the perpetrator. I also think it's extremely important to consider that the majority of the story is his telling of it - can we be sure everything went exactly the way it's depicted? Or is the film depicting only the version of events that he gives his fellow passengers?

I suspect people who are offended by this film are those who identify with Rey's character in some way, and therefore they see him as the film's protagonist and are uncomfortable with what he ends up doing. The violence that comes at the end presents the viewer with an unsettling dilemma - did I want him to hit her? does she "deserve" this? If the story is to be believed, she's not exactly innocent, and one reaction could be to take his side, accepting the explosion of frustration and impotence as justification for his violence.

It's fairly clear that the film is hostile to Rey's character. I love the scene in her apartment when he says he can't express his love in any way other than to give her money, and her reaction to it . . . she's totally real, he's totally fake, but she's using her reality to play a game with him. His indignity at her dancing naked for men is absurd given his constant efforts to do exactly what those men are doing - paying her to get naked with him, just with more "propriety."

There are so many moments to love in this film. The scene when she's hiding her (boyfriend?) in her room and looks up, and the shot of Rey's head in the window over the door - something about that makes me laugh every time. And how about after he leaves her with her lover, walks outside and he's shown hesitating in front of an alleyway, with a little traffic stop in the foreground - a vaginal image if ever there was one (and he hesitates, unable to walk down the alleyway . . .). This film gets short shrift in discussions about Bunuel's later period, which I think is too bad given the tremendous depth Bunuel (and Carriere) have given to such a simple story (again).


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 8:57 pm 
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I just watched this again, and I have to say, besides having one of the coolest film titles ever, this may now be my favorite Bunuel. I love how the film really makes the viewer (or me, anyway), question our approach to relationships. Because Rey is cast as the protagonist, telling his side of the story, we begin to identify with him and his frustrations. At some point, we realize that, while she IS giving him the worst case of blueballs in the world, she really does have a side to this story as well. They both want to make this doomed relationship work, but it's unfortunately never going to happen. I agree with the previous post that there may be some similarities with "Ali: Fear Eats The Soul", but the conflict in this couple seems to be completely internal. Yes, the age may be an issue for them (it is brought up repeatedly in the film), but it's not an issue because of any external pressures. And (in response to that same post) I think that Rey's character is far from "hideous and pitiful"; he seems sincere in his love for her (for example, when he talks to his cousin about her), although he can't seem to express it in a way that goes beyond money and sex. OK, so he may be a little pitiful, but hideous is a little strong.

willycaslon wrote:
my main question: wtf was the deal with the large burlap sack he carried around sometimes? and what exactly happened at the end when the woman in the shop was mending clothes from it? didn't get that bit at all, but i put it down to the fact that bunuel used to pal will dali a lot and called it all good.


I'm not big into reading a lot of symbolism in Bunuel's films, but I find an exception here. We first see the sack early on, when someone else is carrying it around; in later scenes Rey has one, and then it appears at the very end. I have no clue if those should be considered the same sack, or how to explain that aspect of it. However...The woman is sewing up a tear in an old, bloody negligee, as if that one stitch will fix it up. At the same time, the silent conversation outside the shop window seems to be an attempt (once again) to stitch up a broken relationship. This, of course, leads to Conchita storming off, and the final explosion just underlines the fact that this relationship will never work. I'm not trying to come up with a definitive reading of the ending; that's just what makes sense to me.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:49 pm 
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The sewing up of cloth is almost a leitmotif in Bunuel - like the cows and their bells- it pops up perhaps most explicitly in EL and TRISTANA also and is surely a reference (of some subtlety) to de Sade.
Whilst on CET OBSCUR OBJET does anyone else have a response to the clips from Jacques de Baroncelli's LA FEMME ET LA PANTIN? I thought these were amazing, esp the first nude dance scene! AH to have issued the box with that and the Sternberg - a relentless excursion into absolute stylization in white, and entirely different to the Bunuel yet related in the themes of age and obsession.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2005 11:59 pm 
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Bunuel's explanation of the bag is that they shot the scene without it, and then with it, and he (along with someone else - Carriere?) decided that the scene looked better with the bag. It's one of those things that you can interpret however you like. It's an absurd image by itself, even absent any greater symbolism.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 02, 2005 7:04 pm 
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This film is ultimately addicting. There is something about it that keeps pulling me back to watching it at least once every month and it leaves me in a daze for days after each time. To decide what film is Bunuels best, I'm torn between The Obscure Object of Desire and Viridiana.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:48 am 
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bunuelian wrote:
As far as the two actresses are concerned, I've read several books now about that subject and all of them say there was no pattern to their use at all - Bunuel simply used the one he preferred in each scene.


This consensus opinion mystifies me. Bunuel uses one actress to stress the chracter's adherence to societal standards and the other actress to stress the character's rejection of those standards. It's an obvious pattern.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 12:45 pm 

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I agree that there is a pattern, but I don't think you can define it. It seems more about the separate tones to the character.

Also, it's funny that in this film a man is in love with one woman, although she has more than one 'side' and is portrayed by two women. A bit of a contrast to Cocteau's 'Beauty and the Beast' where a woman is in love with two men(?), who turn out to be portrayed by the same actor.

I think it is mentioned in the 'Beauty and the Beast' booklet how the director wanted to show how many women are invariably attracted to the same 'type' of man. And, in 'The Obscure Object of Desire' it shows that many men are attracted to... well, many types of women. :wink:


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 5:18 pm 
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Don't forget that the male lead of the film is played by two actors as well.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 6:37 pm 
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Quote:
Don't forget that the male lead of the film is played by two actors as well.


Huh. Is that for real? I've seen Obscure Object at least 20 times and now you're getting me confused.


EDIT: Oh! Never mind. I didnt realize that you were referring to Beauty and the Beast.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:00 pm 
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Michael wrote:
Quote:
Don't forget that the male lead of the film is played by two actors as well.


Huh. Is that for real? I've seen Obscure Object at least 20 times and now you're getting me confused.


EDIT: Oh! Never mind. I didnt realize that you were referring to Beauty and the Beast.


Actually, the male lead in "Obscure Object" IS played by two actors -- body by Fernando Rey, voice by Michel Piccoli.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:00 pm 
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jcelwin wrote:
I agree that there is a pattern, but I don't think you can define it. It seems more about the separate tones to the character.


I think it can be defined- it just make a take a scene-by-scene material analysis to do so. (I'll have to give it a try sometime). Bunuel's movies are a lot more logical than he ever cared to admit. The liner notes in the Criterion DVD make it clear that the he was shaken to his core that the ultimate theoretical act of 20s surrealism (shooting randomly into a crowd with a gun) became a very logical reality in the 60s. He rejected surrealism and I think his later movies did, too. Everything makes sense and has a reason and purpose. I think Bunuel's denial of this logic in interviews has had a misleading influence on critics.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:46 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
Actually, the male lead in "Obscure Object" IS played by two actors -- body by Fernando Rey, voice by Michel Piccoli.


Yep (and this doesn't apply to the Cocteau, surely). I have no idea whether Bunuel was deliberately matching split protagonists or if this was a happy accident, but it's nevertheless an interesting symmetry.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 9:55 pm 
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But isn't it possible that during the making of the film the logic wasn't apparent until the film came together? Bunuel's claim is that the best actress for the scene was used, without concern for the final product and this is the way the film came out. Of course, Bunuel could have been pulling our collective legs - after all, he was a joker, and the seemingly random things in his films often have an explanation. It does seem unlikely that he would allow randomness into his art.

It's a question worth careful analysis. Hell, I have some time this summer . . . maybe I'll do it right now. Always looking for an excuse to watch this. I'll post a scene breakdown by actress shortly.

As to whether he was a Surrealist to the very end, I think the question is somewhat pointless. What are the qualifying criteria once the original group was broken apart by the war? Since claiming to be a Surrealist originally required membership in the group, it can be argued that it's impossible to be a Surrealist without having been a part of the original group - and to that extent, maybe equally hard to argue that an original member could cease to be a Surrealist without explicitly rejecting the movement. Not all of his films were strictly Surrealist, but I fail to see how this somehow disqualifies him as a Surrealist. On the other hand, I also don't see what the point is of asking about it since the movement was smashed by the war and became a lot less specific and focused afterward.

I'm sure this has been written about at length by far more competent people than me. These are just my impressions - they don't even rise to th the status of opinion at this point . . .

Ultimately I would expect Bunuel to identify more with himself than with the Surrealists, which he was never really an integral part of. I don't think he was all that excited about the groupthink of the original movement - he was too much of an individualist for that crap.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 10:34 pm 
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bunuelian wrote:

It's a question worth careful analysis. Hell, I have some time this summer . . . maybe I'll do it right now. Always looking for an excuse to watch this. I'll post a scene breakdown by actress shortly.


If you do a scene breakdown, keep track of how each actress physically touches Rey. Apparently, Bunuel was very specific about hand gestures, so this could be revealing.

So theoretical questions aside, let's do a base poll: Which Conchita would you rather diddle?

I vote Angela. I like the thick body and latin pout. But I'm biased because I'm married to one.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2005 11:22 pm 
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Maria Schneider was originally cast (solely) in the role and Bunuel fired her after four days of shooting. She doesn't appear in the final film.

When Bunuel and Carriere were writing the script, they discussed the idea of having two different actresses play the role but rejected it. After Bunuel fired Schneider, he stopped shooting for two months and decided to film it with two actresses. (Bunuel claimed in an interview shortly before he died that he came up with the two-actress solution on the fly after firing Schneider, but this is not true).

The two actresses were available during the duration of the shoot, and Bunuel had plenty of pre-production time to decide how they should be used.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:29 am 
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This entire post is a giant SPOILER.

Here we go. I'm afraid my copy of the screenplay isn't with me so I don't have screen numbers - I'm just going to identify them roughly with the assumption that readers are familiar enough with the film to follow along. Comments in italics.

CB = Carole Bouquet - the French one
AM = Angelina Molina - the Spanish one

If I may be so bold, I'll add some comments.

1 - At the train station
CB She's looking for him with bruises on her face. She goes through a car, exits, eventually finds him - he pours water on her. She abandons her bags and boards the train.

This scene ends up being a de facto actress switch, since it's AM that plays out their finale on the train. Why CB here? Since it's the first scene we see her in, maybe to set up Conchita as the colder, more French side initially.

2 - At the judge's house
CB He first sees her as a maid, carrying a crystal vase with roses in it. She tells him she's Spanish but has lived in France for 10 years. She's indifferent to him, a bit rude for a maid. As she's pouring their wine with the same attitude, he notices her hands.

Natural place for CB since we've only seen her briefly and don't have reason to understand an actress switch yet. She's also got the coldness that works for the scene. Is the vase an understated reference to the vase Severine drops in Belle de Jour? Am I thinking too much? Note the relatively dead bouquet in the background, which is emphasized later at the start of the scene when he's talking to the judge about how to fix things.

3 - In Mateo's room at the judge's house[/b[
[b]AM
Enters with the drink, an aphrodisiac. She's constantly smiling at him. She turns down the bed. Laughs when saying her father is dead. When she sits down next to him she immediately moves closer to him. Says she doesn't like working, says she likes dancing. He makes a move, she retreats, smiles/giggles alluringly and says she's going to bed, exits.

A perfect way to introduce AM. She's warm, flirtatious, and of course the subtle sexual elements (turning down the bed, the aphrodisiac, his advances) set her up initially as the more earthy, sexier one. So far, she's more Spanish, while CB is obviously more French. CB never talks about dancing - only AM does.

[Interlude - he learns that she left without getting paid.]

4 - At the cafe after he's been robbed
CB She's seen approaching with the hoodlums. She sits down next to him, returns the money. She's smiling. He gives her the money back. She tells him where she lives. She drops the hankie, breaks off a branch as she departs. He picks up the hankie and smells it deeply.

Why CB? She's hanging out with muggers - not exactly "conformist" behavior. But she also gave back the money, so we can go back and forth about it. I don't see an easy explanation, other than that she looks good next to the young men she's with - she fits with them, stylistically. It might also be a strike against her strict "Frenchness" since up to this point she's been "the French one."

The breaking of the branch reminded me immediately of Nazarin breaking off the branch after his naivete caused the workers to fight and a shooting. This observation may be totally spurious, but I doubt that CB picking the branch was accidental. Though here, her breaking the branch has a distinctly different meaning - a satisfaction, and, in the words of Dave Chappelle, "Gotcha, bitch!"


5 - He visits her apartment for the first time
CB She seems happy to see him. She immediately goes to the mirror and brushes her hair. Touches his chest when thanking him for the money (can someone respond to whether this is normal French etiquette?). She smiles playfully, a touch seductively across the table at him while his mother talks about her dead father. When he puts the money on the table, she doesn't smile - instead, she puts her little finger into her mouth and stares at the money. Mom exits. They go to the couch, where she leans back (clearly a boob move). He puts his hand on her leg, she puts her hand on his. He gets the box for her, opens it, more hand rubbing. She takes out a candy and puts it in his mouth, giving him the opportunity to suck on her fingers.

A place where AM would have worked just as well. CB is the warm, sensual one here - this derails any argument that CB is the "cold French one." She's clearly flirting with him. Of course, she may be flirting in a peculiarly French way, but why that matters here for purposes of our analysis, I'm not sure.

6 - He visits her apartment for a second time
AM She's dancing in a Spanish dress when he comes in. He puts his hand on her chest. She's happy to see him. She goes to the "bathroom" and is seen in her underwear giving herself a sponge bath. He gives her a purse which she says she'll give to her mother. He goes to her and starts running his hands across her body. She's not all that pleased. She does the song/game thing with him, which she explains on the couch was about lovers. She sits on his lap and they kiss until he starts running his hand up her leg. “I kissed you to thank you, and because I like you. I know what you’re after. You amuse me, that’s all. What I want is quite different. “ “Every day I ask myself, what can I do for her? And I’all I can think of, is this.” His pulling out the money is one of the greatest moments in Bunuel's cinema. She immediately reacts with indifference. The mother enters, gives a speech: “Sin has never spent the night here. Our souls are straighter than St. John’s finger.” She tells him she's a virgin with that oh-so-seductive sweetness.

Clearly a place for AM. She's the one who can dance, so she gets the scene. She's also more naturally warm and seductive, though I don't think CB is by any means cold. AM may also be better able to project the innocence needed to sell the virgin line.

[Interlude: He tries to buy off her mother. She doesn't show at his place, instead sending the hoodlum. He goes to her place and finds out that she's moved.]

7 - At the restaurant/bar
CB Working at the coat counter. She’s not happy to see him. She quits – now she’s more friendly but is still upset about the mother-buying. “I was about to give myself to you.” She’s unsure. He leads her by the arm to a seat. “I don’t want your money.” They go outside. Now she’s suddenly friendly again. Offers to be his lover. “Day after tomorrow." Now she takes his arm.

CB plays the smart, willful woman well. It makes sense to put her in this scene where she has to play the independent, strong spirit without the need for seduction. The switch of control here is interesting. He leads her around by the arm in a slightly hostile way, until she consents to being his lover, at which point she takes his arm.

8(a) - At Mateo's country home
AM She’s deliriously happy once they’re alone. Then she notices the picture of his ex wife. Refuses to sleep in the room. He orders the servant to make up the other room. “I do exactly as I please, that’s how it is. My mother doesn’t matter.” She approaches him, calls him “Mi amor.” Kisses him. She becomes faint. “I love you but I almost passed out.” “After you, I’ll never love anyone else. If you leave me I’m as good as dead.” Says she lacks the strength despite her promise to him.

They switch rooms. She’s smiling again. Playfully refuses to kiss him. Goes to change in the bathroom. Seen in the bathroom putting on her nightgown (we see her breast) taking out the chastity belt.

Another good part for AM's warmth, playfulness, innocence. At the same time, she's rejecting her mother and her influence. The "mi amor" line simply couldn't be delivered by CB, since the Spanishness of the Conchita character is entirely represented by AM.

8(b) - At Mateo's country home (cont.)
CB She comes out of the bathroom and suddenly is CB. She asks him to close the blinds. She's seen in the mirror with the cross in the background. She approaches the mirror and opens the top of her nightgown. He goes up to her and grabs her breasts like a pig. She's cold. “No, later. I’m not in the mood right now.” He gets mad. “I don’t owe you a thing.” He threatens her. “I won’t be your lover tonight. Not tonight, not tomorrow.” He grabs her, threatens to take off her nightgown. She tells him to put out the candles. He does. We next see her under the covers. He gets under the covers. “Don’t cry victory too fast.” He discovers the chastity belt.

[Interlude on the train – they send out the kids]

He gives up, is crying. She hugs him tells him she needs time.

Here is where the coldness theory comes from for CB part. I think it shows more her disgust for him. Is she manipulating him? Probably - but he's the sucker. Her presence in this scene may have simply come down to which actress looked better in the chastity belt, lying on the bed, struggling with Mateo. I have a feeling CB looked much better, simply because she's much slighter.

9 - Back at the restaurant/cafe
CB She enters and is offered champagne by the boss of the place.

Brief scene of no importance for our purpose. I suspect this was shot on the same day as the previous scene in the same location and the choice of actress was a matter of economics and efficiency rather than style.

10 - At the river
AM She asks for a 16mm. They talk about why he wants sex. She's totally rational about it.

This scene could just have easily been played by CB. Conchita is cold, accusing here.

11(a) – At his house
CB They’re getting ready for bed, she’s in her nightgown. She goes into the bathroom, washes out her mouth, smiles at herself in the mirror. Gets serious, returns to bedroom. Makes him promise that it’s like any other night. Gets into bed. “If I gave you want you want you’d stop loving me.” He accuses her of staying with him for the money. “I hate young people, they’re idiots.” She gets on top of him. He’s going crazy with lust. He suggests she can please him in other ways. She’s indignant. Says she’ll come haunt him if he takes another woman. Shooting in the street. He doesn’t care – grabs her. She insists on leaving. He grabs her. She gets mad, then changes her mind, “Give me time to get used to you.” He tells her to get out.

Again, I think this is a scene where CB simply looks better than AM would look. It also puts some distance between the CB element of the character and the AM element that features in the final violent showdown. CB is better able to play the unsubmissive, and she’s also got a nice pair.

11(b) – At his house (cont.)
AM We see her escorting the hoodlum into her room and breaking a vase (more Belle de Jour?). She says she’s drying herself, then tells her boyfriend to hide. She hides his stuff. When she opens the door she’s smiling. She’s indignant. “He’s slept her the last three nights.” She’s mad. He kicks them both out. “I’ll never come back.”

Another scene which could be played by either actress, though the hoodlum’s relationship is stronger with AM’s side of the character. Her anger is of a different variety from CB’s. I can’t get enough of the shot of him looking through the window over the door.

12 – At her apartment
CB The police inspectors come to tell her and her mother that they have to leave France. She’s making the bed (note the cross over he bed again).

Trivial scene for our purposes. This is the one time we see them in their new apartment. CB’s side is the only one we see with reference to crosses throughout the film.

13 – On a street in Seville, at night
AM She sees him through the window as a funeral procession goes by. She’s very happy to see him. “How I’ve missed you! I thought you didn’t love me anymore!” “Mi amor! Mi alma!” “All I can give you now is this.” She lets him touch and smell her hair.

Why AM? They’re in Spain. She may also have better, fuller hair for the scene.

14 – At the club
AM She sits down with him, is very happy to see him. They hold hands, she caresses his hand. “I’m not the same, you’ll see.” She leaves to go upstairs. He’s told that she thinks he’s old. He goes upstairs where he sees her dancing naked. She’s pissed. “You’re not my father, and you’re not my lover.” She expresses her devotion to herself. She suddenly switches attitude – you’re handsome, kind, you have nice eyes. “I’m the one who loves you. Your eyes drive me crazy. You’re all that makes me happy.” She sits on his lap and hugs him. She lays out what she wants. “All I can do is love you madly and stay in tact for you.” She kisses him.

AM is the one who can dance, so she gets the part. It would be absurd to put CB in these scenes.

15 – At the house he bought for her
CB She comes out in a golden robe. No kiss. He hands her the key. “I’m afraid of no one, not even you, Mateo.” He gives her the deed – she kisses him – a peck. “It’s all I wanted, nothing can come between us.” He advances again. “Don’t hold your breath – tomorrow night, at midnight.”

Coldness theory certainly works here. She’s got what she wants. See Chappelle line above.

16 – At the house he bought for her, night
AM He arrives, she makes him kiss her foot, won’t let her in, tells him to go away, laughs. “I’m free for the rest of my life! I can’t stand you! You make me sick. I try to run away and you catch up.” She brings out her real man and gets naked with him on the floor.

He leaves and goes outside. He looks down the alleyway but can’t continue. Goes back in, where he sees the loves finish and go upstairs

Conchita needs to find a man with more stamina. AM works better here for her physical traits. Again, it’s not a matter of conformity but rather a question of looks. It’s easier to believe AM in the part here than CB. I consider Mateo standing in the alleyway to be one of the great Freudian moments in all of Bunuel’s cinema – looking down the alleyway, unable to continue, with the traffic stop at the end of the alley . . . a perfectly executed vaginal symbol, and Mateo is utterly impotent.

17 – At his rented home in Seville
CB She shows up in a damn nice dress, looking hot. “I came to see if you were dead.” She’s icy.

AM Abrupt actress change as they go inside. He beats her up. She claims it was all a charade. “He doesn’t even like women!” “Now I know you love me. I’m still a virgin.” The blood flowing from her nose. She tries to give him the key to he house. He takes it, throws it back at her, leaves.

This scene is extraordinary. We can’t condone what he’s doing, but we’re also seeing the film from his perspective and we can’t help but understand why he’s doing it. The blood flowing from her nose is utterly suggestive. It’s very hard to see CB pulling off this scene as well as AM. Since AM played the sex scene in front of Mateo, it also serves for continuity purposes.

18 – On the train
AM She finds him, pours water on him. He chases after her, corners her in a bathroom. She sticks her tongue out at him. After apparently superfluous scenes at the station (see next post), we see the couple walking to a taxi.

No reason to switch actresses. In fact, from an efficiency standpoint, it would have been more sensible to have CB play the role since she was in all the other train parts. The only explanation (other than spontaneous choice) is continuity, since we’ve just seen the fight between Mateo and AM.

19 – Final scene [/b[
[b]CB
They are together, she is smiling. They look happy. She looks on with subtle disgust/horror while he talks with a certain fascination while looking with her at a woman mending a blood-stained nightgown.

AM Sudden actress transition. She walks away, he grabs her arm, she violently pulls it away from him. Explosion. The end.




Last edited by bunuelian on Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 1:46 am 
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I also took the opportunity to record the instances of the bag, since that's another oddity for this film. It appears five times, essentially:

(1) We first see the bag at the very start of the film, when he returns to the home in Seville and goes inside after learning that Conchita has left. A man walks by with the bag over his shoulder as he and his servant go inside.

(2) After she promises to be his lover at his country house, the day after tomorrow. They walk away and a man with the bag crosses in front of the camera, and the camera follows him.

(3) While they're at the river, he picks up the bag which is sitting on a bench, puts it over his shoulder and walks away with it. Has he become the absolute servant? In this scene, she rationalizes as to why they shouldn't have sex. He's about to buy her a movie camera.

(4) At the station, after he's finished his story, the man with the bag appears briefly in the crowd. A cart full of a bunch of the same bags crosses in front of the camera. When you catch these details, these scenes at the station serve a broader purpose than mere tension-building after she douses him with water.

(5) The woman mending the blood-stained nightgown takes the lace out of the same bag.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 4:12 am 

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When I said that I don't think you can define the reason for the use of the different actresses in each scene, I meant because it is too subjective.

I'm sure you can go through and find a reason for each actress being used in each scene, but you'd probably be reading a lot in the scenes that isn't there. It seems that he did put them there because they both create a different tone and their acting is quite different. But, trying to define why Buñuel did this would be a little difficult because it is too subjective.

Every one is going to respond to the actresses in different ways. The actresses themselves are going to change the way that the scenes play out to some degree, and while a director can take note of this and try to use it, he isn't going to be able to take all things into account.

If you really wanted to analyse why Buñuel probably put the actresses in the scenes they are in, it would probably be better to find a script and see how the characters read on paper. Because, that is what Buñuel would have been doing before shooting the scenes. The only problem is that he would have met the two actresses and seen how they act and had his own perceptions of them.

I guess I'm saying that it probably isn't imposable to define, but unless you can talk to the people that made the decisions for each scene, it isn't probable. Although, you can do it, the chances are you won't be right. It's too subjective, and we are looking at the finished product while Buñuel created it what he had around him.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 9:03 am 
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Excellent work, Bunuelian. I'll print it out, watch the film while looking at it, and post my feedback at some later date.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 9:46 am 
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While it may be subjective and grossly imperfect, it's still an interesting exercise.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 12:40 pm 

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bunuelian wrote:
While it may be subjective and grossly imperfect, it's still an interesting exercise.


Yeah, have to admit it is still interesting to do.

Of course we don't know how the other actress would have been in a particular scene, but I like your thoughts on the reason for the use of each particular actress.

I think many of the changes were probably determined from the differences in the two actresses appearance and the perception of the audience. Another reason for the change in actress from one scene/section to the next could also be that Buñuel may have wanted the audience to react in one way or another to the change itself.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 2:01 pm 
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jcelwin wrote:
Another reason for the change in actress from one scene/section to the next could also be that Buñuel may have wanted the audience to react in one way or another to the change itself.


Good point. The sudden switches in actress, with no significant temporal separation between the scenes, are:

(1) At the country home when AM goes into the bathroom and CB comes out.

(2) At his house after he gets fed up with her tease. He kicks CB out of the room and in the next instant AM is leading her boyfriend down the hall.

(3) At his rented home in Seville the day after kicking her out. CB walks up to him, they go inside, she turns into AM once inside. The beating happens.

(4) Technically, there is no temporal separation from the CB scene at the start of the film, at the train station, and AM arriving with the bucket of water at the end. This one might not belong here.

None of the transitions are gratuitous and made solely for shock value. There are stylistic reasons, at least, for wanting the switch in each of these. A lesser filmmaker would have played with it a lot more.

I suspect the nationality of the two actresses contributed significantly to the decisions about which scenes they would play. And some basic necessity as well - AM can dance, and it would fit with Bunuel's penchant for economical shooting to keep CB in all the scenes at the bar.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 5:46 pm 
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Thanks, bunuelian. A very useful analysis. I think you're generally right in your suggestions for Bunuel's choices. From the analysis, it seems that there wasn't any grand scheme as to the allocation of actresses and most of the decisions were probably made according to which one was best for the particular scene.

Another factor was presumably the need to keep the juggling trick in the air. The film wouldn't work as well if AM or CB dropped out of the film entirely for a half-hour or more, or if the introduction of AM was too delayed. This requirement may account for a couple of the apparently 'non-characteristic' castings for scenes. I think it's also the likely reason for the instances in which the actresses swap within a scene - if you're performing such a trick, you might as well flaunt it.

The appearance of AM on the train at the end is important for another reason. As most of the film is told in flashback, Bunuel needs to establish that the switching actress device does not have a purely psychological rationale. If CB reappeared on the train at the end, there might be the implication that she is the 'real' girl, and that the doubling was simply an effect of Rey/Piccoli's narration. It's the objectivity of the device that's so striking in this film.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2005 6:01 pm 

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Yeah, but that reading - the psychological interior reading that Rey is reinventing one girl as two - would be an interesting one. Pointing this out, I think the film would be stronger if the same actress played the opening and closing.


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