Sunday, July 30, 2006

Buñuel

Raymond Durgnat on El Bruto:
"Buñuel has a special feeling, as many left-wing thinkers do, for the workers' sons who become agents of the bourgeoisie: the gamekeepers in L'Age d'or and The Young One, the major-domo in El Angel exterminador, the policemen [including those of May '68--does Pasolini have in Buñuel a kindred spirit?--ZC], the strong-arm man. In one sense, they are traitors to their class. In another sense, they express the constant pull of self-interest in every member of the proletariat. Or again, they can be seen as victions of a 'confusionism' spread by the reigning culture." (p. 78 of Luis Buñuel)

Durgnat on Diary of a Chambermaid:
"Because Buñuel's view of character is fundamentally dialectical, we feel no contrivance, no schematism, whe he (following Mirbeau) makes Joseph not only a Fascist but also a sex murderer. Buñuel isn't saying that all Fascists are quite likely to murder children. ... Buñuel is simply noting a possible, unsuspected affinity between physical aggression and political aggression. The political criticism here, is, surely, that of excessive consistency, rather than of excessive contradiction. ... For [Joseph], sexuality is just sweet slime, it's meaningless without marriage, i.e. absolute possession unto death, another form of murder." (p. 134 of Luis Buñuel)

In other words, maybe: we are all responsible for our own actions, but real political guiltiness runs much deeper than actions, and it is recognizable in our psyches. To be on the side of authority and reactionary power: confusion and ignorance are signs of potential liberation (like guilt & shame are good signs under Calvinist predestination), but emphatic embrace of order, an absolutist coherence, signifies one's political designation beyond reformation or rejection.

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I didn't always like Buñuel: the first few films I saw of his were disagreeable to the (admittedly somewhat left-leaning) Catholicism of my youth. After a while I realized he was the one sticking to his principles and expressing them, admist so many contradictions, with great honesty and verve, and I was the one clinging to platitudes and predeterminations.

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Possibly my favorite moment in El Bruto: after Palomar (Katy Jurado) meets beefy, sexualized Bruto, then returns to the bed of her old husband, who renews his previously-rejected sexual advances. As he caresses her, she's enraptured--by the thought of Bruto, we know--and the camera zooms in to her face to underline and even, almost, "kinaesthesize" the rush of sexual energy she feels at that moment.

3 comments:

girish said...

Thanks for posting these, Zach. I've never seen El Bruto. Bunuel is one of my favorite filmmakers but screenings of his films are rare where I live, and DVD has not been as kind to him as some other "masters." Almost all of his Mexican period remains unavailable, and also many key later works (like Tristana) remain un-DVD'd. VHS is the only option, but video stores are dumping their VHS stock as if it were radioactive. And neither does he appear to be the beneficiary of restrospective-curating interest lately, at least that I know of...

Zach Campbell said...

Girish, have you tried your local (or even university) library for Bunuel VHS tapes? They can be a decent source of stuff, and are often less rushed to get rid of "obsolete" formats ...

Andy Rector said...

El Bruto happens to be on DVD (http://video.barnesandnoble.com/search/product.asp?ean=634991163521&z=y&frm=0&itm=10 )
but you're right, we're missing a huge chunk of Bunuel. Gran Casino is also apparently on DVD or about to be released. A box-set would be in order:
1. El gran calavera (Great Madcap) - vhs is available
2. Subida al cielo (Mexican Bus Ride) - vhs is available
3. Los Olvidados
4. El - vhs available.
5. La ilusion viaja en travia (Illusion Travels by Streetcar) - vhs available
6. Ensayo de un Crimen (Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz) - vhs available

And, perhaps even more desirable, would be a release of his revolutionary trilogy:
1. Cela s'appelle l'aurore
2. La mort en ce jardin
3. La fievre monte a El Pao

Also in dire need of a sturdy release is THE YOUNG ONE. It indeed shows this special feeling for just about everyone; from the racist hick to his niece, a victimized innocent young girl. The amount of time that Bunuel puts us spectators in the black man's shoes, and therefore WHERE HE STANDS, is the real power and perspective of the film; like nothing else I've seen from the time (or in our own time!).