Luis Bu˝uel  



The classic surrealist and a father of the movement. Classic surrealism explores the subconscious or irrational juxtaposition of ideas, objects and images. It thrives on a pure and unfiltered flow of ideas and associations from the subconscious. Obviously emerging from the original nihilistic Dadaist movement, Bunuel at first took this style to an extreme, directing provocative movies or scenes with absolutely no meaning. He often laughed at critics and viewers who forced a variety of meanings and symbols into his creations.

Bunuel had an inactive period, then a Mexican period where he made mostly neo-realist dramas with very slight touches of surrealism, but it's during his final period of more expensive and interesting works that he shines. All these later works eased up on the purely irrational and strange, and explored more straightforward plots and ideas mixed with dream sequences and the occasional use of his surreal bag of tricks. Rich with sly humor, most of these later movies wallowed in the absurd rather than the surreal. For example, The Exterminating Angel features rich people unable to leave a room and making up excuses for it, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie features people unable to have a meal, politely evading ridiculous interruptions, and in his best work, That Obscure Object of Desire, he makes fun of the male's chase after women.

Bunuel had a wicked sense of humor and loved to play jokes on his audience, teasing them with objects and cinematic tricks that are somehow meaningless yet also provocative and mysterious, using contradictions and sly twists on commmon settings, and blurring the line between dreams and reality. The major themes in most of his movies are jokes on the hypocrisy and quirks of the bourgeoisie from an amused insider's point of view, poking fun at clerics, Christianity and sometimes religion in general, as well as ridiculing the army or police force. He usually doesn't make movies to tell stories or convey a message, but as vehicles for his jokes and iconoclastic ideas. As such, his movies are not to everyone's taste. The following are only his weirdest movies.

Of Some Interest

┬ge d'or, L'  
Bunuel and Dali's wicked second outing is almost a full-length feature and is out to attack and poke fun at everything that is sacred. A libertine couple are constantly thwarted at their attempts to make love and their lustful attentions are distracted by strangers and a statue's toes. A crowd trying to build a city over the skeletons of dead bishops puts the man under arrest while he gleefully kicks a dog, a blind man, and squashes bugs. The aristocracy have a party while peasants ride a cart through the hall unnoticed and flies buzz on the Marquis's face. People kick violins on the street, throw giraffes out of windows, shoot their own son for being a free spirited rascal, and Jesus has orgies in a strange castle. Banned for decades.

Chien Andalou, Un  
A landmark in cinema and probably the most extremely surreal short movie ever made. These 17 minutes of madness can't be described simply because they are a series of strange visuals with absolutely no connection between them. Bunuel and Salvador Dali sat down one day to exchange dreams and ideas, and based this movie on them, the goal being to annoy, shock and befuddle the audiences. Amongst the sequences is the famous 'razor slicing an eyeball', and 'man dragging a piano, a dead donkey and two priests while trying to attack a woman', and 'ants swarming out of a hole in a man's hand'.

Fantome de la Liberte  
A series of vignettes, some intensely surreal or weird, some slyly amusing or full of fascinating contradictions. The camera drops subjects to follow other unconnected ones, shifting from one scene, joke, setting or dream to another. My favorite is the one where people sit around a table on toilet seats discussing human waste, and then excuse themselves to eat food in private. Then there is the man who invites four priests into his hotel room and then gets his girlfriend to whip him in front of them without warning, the man who dreams of an ostrich and a postman in his bedroom, a man diagnosed with cancer by his whimsical doctor who offers him a cigarette, etc..

Milky Way, The  
A catalog of famous and not-so-famous heresies and arguments in Christianity and atheism, with plenty of ridiculing points and jokes thrown in for good measure. There is no story, but the movie follows two tramps on a pilgrimage who encounter a variety of strange characters and people discussing theology, and witness strange spiritual beings and miracles. The eras change and blend together, including a scene of Jesus performing miracles and uttering nonsensical parables, Renaissance men dueling over a heresy, and an insane priest that throws coffee in a modern policeman's face. The whole movie is an iconoclastic joke that makes fun of all the bickerings even within Christianity and how people kill each other over their personal truths. The last scene is a kick in the butt on Jesus himself.




ę 2000- by Zev Toledano Table of Contents