Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

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domino harvey
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Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#1 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:49 am

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AUTEUR LIST: LUIS BUÑUEL
November 19 - January 11


Time to slit eyeballs, stay in one room, and flash a holy man in honor of the immortal Luis Buñuel, our fourth director to receive the Auteur List treatment. Buñuel left an unquestionable mark on cinema, and we’ll be examining his legacy during this list. Individual lists should reflect your own personal preference— the goal is not to be cunning, but honest. If Belle de jour is your favorite, don’t vote for Diary of a Chambermaid ahead of it just to skew the results for a film less likely to chart as high, unless of course you consider Diary of a Chambermaid a better film! Ideally participation will be high for this list, so it’d be best if the results truly represented a survey of personal tastes and not iconoclastic pot-stirring.

Members are encouraged to weigh in on any and all of Buñuel’s works during this project’s run, and take this opportunity to revisit as many of Buñuel’s films as you can. We are fortunate that so many of his works survive in excellent Blu-ray and DVD editions, with copious supplemental material, so let’s all take advantage of our collective good fortune and really have a lively look back at one of cinema’s unquestionable greats. And remember to share your insights with the rest of the board, and engage with the thoughts and takes of others.

RULES
Only films listed below in the Eligible Films list are eligible for voting. Films in which Bunuel is not the credited director (¡Centinela, alerta! &c) are not eligible

The minimum and standard number of submitted feature films for each participating member is 10, in ranked order (With number one being the best and so on down the line). Only those films listed below are eligible for voting. You may vote for any mix of shorts and features together in your Top Ten. The final list will comprise of a Top 20, with supplemental recordings of also-rans and orphans, as in other list projects.

Lists should be PMed to me, domino harvey, no later than January 11th. No submissions will be accepted before November 19th. Everyone who can read this post is eligible to participate in this list and cast a ballot.


ELIGIBLE FILMS
Un Chien Andalou (1929) (S) R2/B BFI
Menjant garotes (1930) (S) Non-circulating
L'Age d'Or (1930) R2/B BFI
Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (1933) (S)
Gran Casino (1947) R1 StudioCanal
El Gran Calavera (1949)
Los olvidados (1950)
Susana (1951) R0 Facets
La hija del engaño (1951)
Subida al cielo(1952)
Una mujer sin amor / A Woman Without Love (1952) R0 Facets
El bruto (1953) R0 Facets
Él (1953)
La ilusión viaja en tranvía (1954)
Abismos de pasión / Wuthering Heights (1954)
Robinson Crusoe (1954) R0 VCI
Ensayo de un crimen / the Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955)
El río y la muerte (1955)
Cela s'appelle l'aurore (1956)
La mort en ce jardin AKA Death in the Garden (1956) R2/B Masters of Cinema
Nazarín (1959)
La fièvre monte à El Pao (1959)
the Young One (1960) R1 StudioCanal
Viridiana (1961) R1 Criterion
El ángel exterminador / the Exterminating Angel (1962) R1/A Criterion
Le journal d'une femme de chambre / the Diary of a Chambermaid (1964) R1 Criterion (OOP) / R2/B StudioCanal
Simón del desierto / Simon of the Desert (1965) R1 Criterion
Belle de jour (1967) R1/A Criterion / R2/B StudioCanal
La Voie Lactée / the Milky Way (1969) R1 Criterion (OOP) / R2/B StudioCanal
Tristana (1970) R1/A Cohen Media Group / R2 BFI
Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie / the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) R1 Criterion (OOP) / RA/B StudioCanal
Le fantôme de la liberté / the Phantom of Liberty (1974) R1 Criterion (OOP) / R2/B StudioCanal
Cet obscur objet du désir / That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) R1 Criterion (OOP) / RA/B StudioCanal


FORUM RESOURCES

Lionsgate: the Luis Buñuel Collection / Luis Bunuel / Luis Buñuel on DVD / Optimum: the Luis Bunuel Collection / StudioCanal: Bunuel: the Essential Collection

102 the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
117 Diary of a Chambermaid
290 the Phantom of Liberty
332 Viridiana
402 the Milky Way
459-460 the Exterminating Angel and Simon of the Desert
593 Belle de jour

BFI: Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'or

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domino harvey
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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#2 Post by domino harvey » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:38 pm

You may now post. You may or may not be able to leave the thread after doing so, however

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#3 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Nov 19, 2017 8:55 pm

Does voting for more than 10 lower the score of anything one lists as 11 or lower? ;-)

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#4 Post by Rayon Vert » Mon Nov 20, 2017 12:49 am

I started these rewatches in late October, before I found out the project was getting delayed...

La Mort en ce jardin (Death in the Garden). A more mainstream, big-budgeted (French-Mexican) potboiler rather than a strongly personal work, although as it’s been noted, and maybe as others here will perhaps elaborate, the film’s symbolism still evokes Bunuelian tropes and themes. Of course the priest’s well-intended efforts seem to just bring trouble. At the same time, there is something (untypically?) optimistic in this story of scheming, cynical individuals in a dog-eat-dog world who undergo something of a metamorphosis into caring people as they go through their calvary in the jungle. There’s definitely an archetypal, biblical feeling when we get to the jungle portion of the film, and the characters setting off on their own at film’s end feels like we’re at the start of a new dawn of sorts.

The blu-ray upgrade (except for a shots where the source seems to be secondary) looks very nice, especially in the proper 1.66 aspect ratio, and that might have something to do with how I liked this a lot more the second time around, even though I still found it worthy enough to be a keeper the first time. Action-packed, and colorful settings. A minor but fun film.

The Exterminating Angel. This seems to take off from the surrealist spirit of the banquet scene in Viridiana but truly turns into Bunuel’s first true surrealist film since his original avant-garde works of 1929-30. The conceit in the film allows for the veneer of bourgeois civilization to strip away and reveal what’s underneath. Nicely set up and well crafted, but despite the good actors and characterizations, I find this one to be something a single played-out joke that is strangely dull for most of it.

Susana. Bunuel achieves here the remarkable ability to create a strong satire using only dramatic means. In this melodrama, Susan, which means “chastity” we are told, is a predatory reformatory-escaped girl who establishes herself in a bourgeois household by igniting the desires of all of the men. Of course, what we’re really seeing is how the false social fabric and hypocrisy of the bourgeois family is merely revealed by desire and what is repressed. It’s quite amazing how Bunuel holds no bars in making this obvious through the flimsy cover of a melodrama, especially in the blackly false-ironical ending. A simple little film, but extremely well executed, and delightfully fun and devilish.

El. Much more is sometimes made of this film than what it is, although what satirical touches actually exist are fine. Otherwise this is pretty much a straightforward character study of a bourgeois man’s obsessive jealousy towards his wife and the extent to which it will drive him. Like several Bunuel films, a single-minded idea driven to its logical end, though it’s finely done for what it is, and much better than something like The Brute. A violent scene at a bell tower and the obsessional theme of the film made me think of Vertigo. (An acceptable French, Region 2 DVD combining this and The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz, and which includes English subtitles, exists here).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#5 Post by bottled spider » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:57 am

I started revisiting Buñuel well in advance too, expecting to be busy in November.

El bruto
Its briskness, clarity, and narrative efficiency make this a contender for my top slot. Consider its small moments of pure cinema: the opening shot of the medicine drops, Paloma decapitating the flowers, the little business with the stiletto in the abattoir, and especially that ultra concise funeral scene. Beyond the cinematic craftsmanship, the landlord Cabrera's elderly father and Katy Jurado's tempestuous Paloma lift El Bruto into something sublime.

Viridiana
Buñuel's jeremiad against the decline of table manners.

Buñuel certainly scales the heights in Viridiana -- the little girl skipping rope under that tree! -- yet the stretch from Don Jaimes' suicide to the orgiastic finale is rather dry. So filed for me under "Rewarding Slog".

Death in the Garden
Buñuel's twist on the deus ex machina plot device: the machinery has fallen apart, and God cannot be found (c.f. deus absconditus or "lam of God" theology).

The midnight execution and the riot that follows could be a Goya painting sprung to life!

I very much like Buñuel in his commercial mode. I wonder if this film influenced Jonathan Sayles' Limbo.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#6 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 20, 2017 5:56 pm

To add to the list at the top, El and The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz are available on an English-friendly French disc. Here.

As is Wuthering Heights. Here.

Likewise Los Olvidados. Here. It was also released in the UK, though that disc might be OOP now.

La Fievre Monte a El Pao is also available, English-friendly, in France - on BluRay, no less! Here.

Nazarin, Ascent to Heaven (Subida al Cielo) and The Great Madcap (El Gran Calavera) are all available on DVD in the UK from Yume Pictures. Just search for them under the English titles on amazon.co.uk.

Bunuel's '50s films tend to get unfairly sidelined all too often, but many of them are accessible if you scratch the surface.
Last edited by zedz on Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#7 Post by swo17 » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:10 pm

I have the R4 Umbrella/Shock editions of Los olvidados and Las Hurdes--I think those are supposed to be the best available?

Also, the Filmoteca Española edition of Un chien andalou is by far my favorite--much more of the frame visible and running at a more languorous pace.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#8 Post by bottled spider » Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:09 pm

Thanks Rayon Vert and swo17 for the purchasing information! I've ordered Wuthering Heights.

The title is so much more exciting in French: Les Hauts de Hurlevent

I've never read any Brontë, or seen an adaptation of a Brontë novel. Don't let me down, Buñuel.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#9 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 21, 2017 1:31 am

Get thee to Andrea Arnold's take!

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#10 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:51 am

domino harvey wrote:Get thee to Andrea Arnold's take!
Agree.. Best thing she's done by. far Also worth a look is Techiné's 'Les Soeurs Bronte'

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#11 Post by bottled spider » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:15 pm

I'll definitely check out the Andrea Arnold, but I'm thinking of watching the Buñuel first -- unless prior familiarity with the material is recommended for that adaptation.

The Exterminating Angel
Pratfalling is not yet, for whatever reason, an Olympic event, but if it were, that waiter performs a medal worthy faceplant. It's an undisguised self-trip -- a joke, perhaps, in the same vein as the obviously fake amputated legs in Ascent to Heaven and Tristana -- but he sticks the landing magnificently.

Doubtless this is pernicious heresy, but the satire in Exterminating Angel seems uncharacteristically obvious and humourless (e.g. an aristocrat musing aloud, in reference to a disastrous train derailment, that the lower classes, like bulls in the arena, just aren't sensible to pain), and the partial regression to the capital S surrealism of L'Age D'or / Un Chien Andalou is not my cuppa Buñuel.

I did like the little boy with the balloon. And the bear.

FYI: Metropolitan Opera Stage Adaptation

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#12 Post by knives » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:28 pm

Honestly I've always found Bunuel's satire in all of his films with it to be obvious (though I can't relate to this being humourless). At times he's practically an essayist especially in the French films (none of which are likely to make my list). I significantly prefer his Mexican films in part because he attaches that obviousness to genres that work well with explicit themes such as the melodrama of Susana or the neo-realism of his best film Los olvidados.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#13 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:36 pm

Historically, satire has always been blunt, hasn't it? I mean, originally satire was a genre not of making fun but of fierce social and cultural critique (eg. Horace and Juvenal's satires). For me, I don't look at whether or not the point of the satire is obvious or subtle, but whether (depending on the mode of satire) it's appropriate and accurate for the target and situation or whether it's extreme and vigorous enough to become a wonderful grotesquerie or phantasmagoria.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#14 Post by knives » Thu Nov 23, 2017 10:41 pm

Yeah, that seems reasonable. I was actually going to half jokingly mention that his most blunt and essay formed satires, The Milky Way and Viridiana, are my favorites of that subset of films. My point was more like when working in a (mostly) traditional narrative melding the satire to a genre that also works well with blunt force is more effective than pausing the film to make a point.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#15 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Nov 24, 2017 12:23 am

Belle de jour. Revisited this tonight. As with The Exterminating Angel, my being initially impressed by the film's conceit and the originality of the overall presentation wasn't followed by continuing delight. Speaking of satire subtle vs. blunt, I was already thinking upon watching it this evening, before reading the new posts here, that this goes into the former category, but even with that, along with the entertaining changes of scenery and characters, the prettiness of the film, and the theme of the mystery of desire, for me this doesn't add up to more than a mildly pleasurable, fragmented experience of different bits of filmcraft.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#16 Post by bottled spider » Fri Nov 24, 2017 1:12 pm

I don't want to overstate my objections to Exterminating Angel, which is simply one of my least liked from among his most popular and acclaimed. The specific line of dialogue I cited is obvious in the sense of being trite and facile -- trite because upper class twittery / bloodymindedness has been caricatured that way any number of times, and facile in that it doesn't take the genius of a Buñuel to come up with a line like that. (I would have to agree that satire is generally obvious in a somewhat different sense of the word).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#17 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:15 am

1 rewatch and 1 first-time viewing. (I should get in another 4 to 7 of the latter, making my run-through of the Bunuel filmography almost complete.)

Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie. Despite the title and the obsessive focus on bourgeois dinner table rituals, the focus here seems to be as much on state despotism (both Latin American and French), and with surrealism for surrealism’s sake (sometimes in the characters’ behaviors, like the one played by Bulle Ogier when she expresses her irrational hatred of cello players). Note also the strong role of dreams. This sketch-like absurdist film is not unlike Monty Python when you think about it. The sketches here are stronger than the ones in the even more anarchic The Phantom of Liberty, but even so they’re not always completely successful.

Seeing this after Belle de jour, I was struck how the photography here is much less remarkable. There’s something a little non-filmic about the unvaryingly brightly lit, shadowless, almost TV-like scenes.


La Fièvre monte à El Pao. Speaking of state despotism, this third 1950s French-Mexican co-production centers on a story of idealism and moral dilemmas in a struggle to oppose and prevent a repressive regime. Bunuel plays this political drama thriller extremely straight – there’s nothing slightly quirky as there is in (the ultimately more enjoyable) Death in the Garden. It would seem like a completely impersonal work were it not for this very presence of this essentially Bunuelian theme of freedom against tyranny. It’s not at all a bad film, it's very competent, but it doesn't really connect emotionally, and the somewhat bland do-gooder character played by Gérard Philippe is perhaps part of the problem. Extensive and good use of location shooting, though.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#18 Post by bottled spider » Sun Nov 26, 2017 8:15 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie. ....Seeing this after Belle de jour, I was struck how the photography here is much less remarkable. There’s something a little non-filmic about the unvaryingly brightly lit, shadowless, almost TV-like scenes.
I didn't really pick up on this either time I watched it, but recalling the film in my mind's eye as best I can, this observation sounds right.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#19 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:47 pm

I was watching some of the extras on the new Studio Canal Bunuel set today (I watched the film itself on my previously owned BR), and seeing excerpts again I obviously exaggerated. There are shadows! But overall my general impression as I wrote it out stands.

I also noticed Carrière in a doc saying that they came up with the title of the film itself afterwards, Bunuel and he coming up with titles, in true surrealist fashion, that didn't necessarily have anything to do with the film but would give you a perspective to view the film they made with a different angle. So that they weren't thinking "bourgeoisie" when they made it. That helps bolster my impression this time that I didn't feel the film was so strongly or exclusively a satire on the (upper) middle class.

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Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#20 Post by Werewolf by Night » Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:54 pm

I can’t recall where I read it (it was at least 13 years ago), but the very flat cinematographic style of Buñuel’s late films was a deliberate artistic choice, an anti-style. He had come to hate picturesque cinematography and rejected all pretensions to cinematic style in favor of directness.

He had a similar philosophy for sound and music in the late films, not using a score.

Of course, the artistic rationale may just be typical Buñuel myth-making and he rejected lush cinematography and non-diegetic music just to save time and money.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#21 Post by bottled spider » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:43 pm

Diary of a Chambermaid
Meticulous, polished, and literary: Buñuel, fashionably late, taking a crack at the tradition of quality? Or wisecrack maybe.

One highlight: the butterfly execution.

Moreau was perfect. She was an ambiguous thirty-six at the time: young and beautiful whenever she smiles, but a hint of jowliness and incipient double chin lend her an older look in pensive moments. More than her sly smile I love that hard, weary expression that often crosses her face.

Good photography. I even liked the "mumps," though apparently this was a technical flaw, not an intentional effect (see the discussion in the dedicated Criterion thread).

What was the mistress of the house doing in her "chemistry lab"? She prepares a solution, and then pours it into a white enamel receptacle attached to the wall, a receptacle with a tube coming out the bottom an another entering the top... I can't quite make out what it is even after replaying the scene several times.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#22 Post by knives » Tue Nov 28, 2017 11:50 pm

Or maybe just giving a good example of the quality of tradition traits? Afterall Bunuel has a few fairly straightforward, mainstream films (though even they usually show his political side ala Robinson Crusoe).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#23 Post by Werewolf by Night » Wed Nov 29, 2017 12:19 am

Apologies that this doesn’t contribute to the discussion, but I thought I’d share while people are talking about this film. 21 years ago, at a preview screening of her latest film, Jeanne Moreau was kind enough to sign my copy of Francisco Aranda’s critical biography of Buñuel (one of the first serious film books I read). We chatted for a minute and she told me the film played for a year straight at one cinema in Paris after it came out.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#24 Post by bottled spider » Wed Nov 29, 2017 3:02 am

That is really cool. Thanks for sharing.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#25 Post by Black Hat » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:19 am

For me I see Bunuel as something of a magician in that once the trick is revealed I'm not sure how much more you're going to get out of it, but what you can still do, like with magicians, is tell your friends to check out the show. Even more than Godard I'd put Bunuel as the director you suggest if you want to blow a film novice's mind. The other thing about Bunuel that comes to mind is how far ahead of his time he was, I think his brand of satire would work much better today than in his own time. Think about it Spike Jonze is running Viceland, what if that was Bunuel? He was his own Viceland.

Of the about 15 Bunuels I've seen the one I go back to the most is Tristana. It's a disturbing movie but fuck is it funny in ways you don't expect it to be, whether it's with the head or the leg or the opposing parallels between Deneuve and Rey. There's so many moments in this film where you say to yourself, wait what was that? And just the mere contemplation of it makes you laugh. Deneuve is especially good in this because it's a rare film of hers that doesn't rely on her beauty and instead relies on her expression. Her movement, gestures and face are so good that you could treat the film as a silent without losing anything. Not to be sold short Rey is excellent in this too, but in a much different way in that his performance is all about balancing whimsy innocence with diabolical darkness. Succeeding in this allowed Bunuel to play with our sympathies which is what I think made the film a larger commentary on how fucked up society's expectations of gender are, not to mention religion which plays a smaller role but is a thread throughout the picture.

Bunuel closed out his career by returning to many of the themes of Tristana with That Obscure Object of Desire. Although that movie was flashier, perhaps in places more spectacular, it lacks Tristana's humor as well as balance and thus comes off as a rather unhinged, if not perverse film of self indulgence.

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