Tag: Inti

Fragments of Buñuel

Surrealist:

The real purpose of surrealism was not to create a new literary, artistic, or even philosophical movement, but to explode the social order, to transform life itself…. For the first time in my life I’d come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humor, the insult and the call of the abyss.1

Gun enthusiast:

In a 1964 documentary filmed for the French television series “Un Cineast de Notre Temps”, Buñuel’s friend Georges Sadoul tells this anecdote:

His son Juan Luis told me a story that I adore, because it’s Buñuel in a nutshell. He said, “My father had an idea of making a bullet, since he made bullets himself, with such a weak charge that when the bullet was fired at him it would slide of his clothes harmlessly. He worked on it for months, and finally one day he said, ‘I’ve done it!’ To test fire it, he took the precaution of lining up several dictionaries and old phone books. He fired. The bullet went through the target, through the phone books, through the wall and into the neighbor’s!” That’s Buñuel in a nutshell. When he makes a film, he says, ‘I hardly put anything in it,’ and it explodes.

Masquerade:

Young Luis at left, dressed in a nun's habit

Buñuel accepted his 1972 Acadamy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in disguise. As a young man, he frequently posed as a military officer, and enjoyed roaming the streets with friends decked out as nuns and friars, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that, in 1920s Spain, impersonating a priest was punishable by five years in prison.

Philosopher:

Your freedom is only a phantom that travels the world in a cloak of fog. You try to grab hold of it, but it will always slip away. All you’ll have left is a dampness on your fingers.2

Mischief:

You can read an account of Buñuel’s final practical joke in this article from The Guardian, appropriately titled Dead man laughing.

Friend:

Jean-Claude Carriere, has a nice remembrance of the great director and their collaboration on Buñuel’s autobiography.

The quotes are from My Last Sigh, by Luis Buñuel & Jean-Claude Carriere, published in 1983. #1 is taken from page 107; #2 from page 109.

(contributed by Inti)

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Viridiana – prologue

Thirty some years after the scandal of L’Age d’Or, Luis Buñuel kicked convention in the teeth once again with Viridiana (1961). He’d spent the first few of those intervening years working as an executive producer for French studio films (with the stipulation that his name never appear in association with the finished product), and as an agent for Republican Spain during the disastrous Civil War. Later, he spent time as a bemused cine-tourist in the United States, dubbing Spanish language films and editing historical footage for the Museum of Modern Art. Rootless and semi-employed for years, desperate to find a means to support himself and his family, he finally settled in Mexico with the hopes of landing a job through connections with the Spanish exile community.

Between 1930 and 1947, Buñuel directed only one film, the short documentary Las Hurdes or Terra Sans Pain (you can watch it here in French, no subtitles), in 1933. Then nothing as he scrambled to make a living as first Spain, then all of Europe convulsed in armed conflict. Mexico offered a refuge and the possibility of employment in the local film industry.

Buñuel’s Mexican debut was, by his own admission, mediocre , but he soon found his groove. Working fast, with bare-bones budgets, shooting scenes in the order they were scripted to minimize editing time, he pounded out 18 films from 1949 to 1960. Despite the lack of resources, six of these films were official selections at Cannes, and three came away with prizes.

This surge of popular and critical success must have been on the minds of the government officials who invited the prodigal to return to the fatherland and make a movie in Franco’s Spain. I wonder if any of the fascist fuddy-duddies bothered to watch any of his films. Buñuel’s movies of the fifties, melodramas and adventure stories for the masses, nevertheless consistently undercut the authority of institutions like the church, the state, and the police. In addition, the director continued to imbue his commercial work with his own taste for disturbing imagery that ignored distinctions between interior and exterior reality. How officials in charge of a very effective state propaganda machine could miss these elements is a mystery to me.

Imagine yourself as a mid level toady in the Ministry of Culture of a devoutly Catholic dictatorship and read these three short plot summaries (spoiler alert!):

El (1953) – a paranoid husband torments his wife, convinced that she is unfaithful, eventually sewing up her vagina. You can watch the opening five minutes (or the entire film if you want to download the Veoh player). The film has barely started and already you have a bishop planting passionate kisses on altar boy feet while parishioners exchange lusty glances.

Ensayo de un Crimen (1955) – a wealthy man plans a series of murders, but each of his intended victims is killed by other means or he is interrupted before he can act. He menaces a nun with a straight razor (she dies falling down an empty elevator shaft); he prepares to strangle a woman but is interrupted when unexpected guests arrive and take a tour of his home; his betrothed, whom he intends to shoot on their wedding night, is instead shot to death by an ex-lover.

Nazarin (1959) – Padre Nazario, a Roman Cathoic priest, “walks the walk” of Jesus, living amongst the poor in a run-down hotel, attempting to influence the lives of those around him through charity and good works. But his interactions with people, undertaken with the best of intentions, tend to have chaotic results. The priest’s story parallels the life of Christ, only with absurd outcomes. In one scene, Nazario tries to help a dying woman but she ignores his attempts to administer last rites, calling out instead for her husband.

Despite a catalogue of films like these, Luis Buñuel was invited back to Spain to make a movie. Sixty years old, in total command of his medium after a decade of intense productivity, the director stepped back onto his native soil with the full support of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, Caudillo de España, por la gracia de Dios.

(contributed by Inti)

Relaunch 2010

Welcome back to the EFF blog. The Board of Directors is busy putting together our promotional campaign for this year’s program. The website should be up and running later this month, and we anticipate sending out a call for submissions in March.

Watch this space for updates as we move forward with planning and preparation for EFF#6. You can also track our progress through Facebook (we are double dipping with both a personal page and a fan page), Twitter and Myspace.

A second function of this blog and our other social media sites will be to keep you abreast of events, fundraisers and other fun stuff that EFF will be involved in over the course of the year. To that end, I am happy to announce the return of the Film Forum (any suggestions for a new name?), a monthly free film screening that will lead-in to BAR NOIR, a speakeasy-style happening with adult beverages, music  and dancing.

This month’s Film Forum feature will be D.O.A. (Rudolph Maté, 1950). An excellent review is available online at Noir of the Week.

The screening is Saturday, February 27th at 8:00 PM at the Gallery One Visual Arts Center, 408 N Pearl St, in historic downtown Ellensburg, WA. The DJs will set the music spinning at 10:00 PM, and there will be dancing and discussion until the wee hours. The Forum is all ages. For BAR NOIR, you must be 21 or older. For you PowerPoint types, I’ve broken it down below.

When: Saturday, February 27

Where: Gallery One Visual Arts Center, 408 N Pearl St, Ellensburg, WA

Film Forum: D.O.A. screens at 8PM (all ages)

BAR NOIR: DJ’d music and dancing 10PM – 2AM (21+, Iron Horse Beer, Sagecliffe wine & cocktails)


There is a third function for this blog, and that is to be an arena for discussing film. We’d like to include film and DVD reviews; essays on cinema; links to other film discussion websites and blogs; thoughts on movies, media and modern culture; rants; cool pictures; and anything else that stimulates a lively conversation about the art of moving pictures. We will feature commentary from EFF Board members, as well as from festival volunteers and supporters. If you have ideas, topics or articles, leave your comments here at WordPress or any of the Ellensburg Film Festival’s other web avatars. You can also contact me directly at traffic@ellensburgfilmfestival.com.

(contributed by Inti)