That’s it. Accurate, undeniably, but not exactly surreal.
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14 Responses to “Bunuel’s Last Words”
I’ve always felt that he was very much a realist in every way, which is why his films have lasted. I hadn’t heard that story before but it fits. Unconnected in any way but bolstering his lack of histrionics is his belief (attested to by Jean Claude Carriere in his excellent The Secret Language of Film) that films should be like cathedrals – uncredited.
As a true realist, then, his films include dreams, inexplicable events, irrational and unmotivated behaviour, as well as social injustice. The so-called realists include only the last-named, and are therefore less fun.
That’s it exactly! I think his supposed outlandishness is based on a remarkably clear-eyed approach to the world and its inhabitants. Even remarkable coups de cinema like the substitution of one actress for another in That Obscure Object of Desire was (a) motivated by a pragmatic response to circumstance and (b) done in the full knowledge that it didn’t really matter.
Since the character is consistent only in her inconsistency, it seems perfectly apt. The main thing was to avoid using each actress to represent a different facet, which would have been way too obvious.
If Maria Schneider had made it through more than a day’s filming, maybe he’d have had THREE actresses in the role?
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
I think rehab has done the trick.
Ah, but would rehab ever teach her how to act?!
Bunuel’s approach to realism is what drove to him to the dual casting of CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DESIR, the novel ,i>La Femme et la Pantin by Pierre Louys(of course adapted previously as The Devil is A Woman by Von Sternberg) bothered him because the woman character, he felt, had wildly inconsistent behavior and that the only way it would be dramatically convincing was if she were played by two different actresses. He and Carriere discussed this during the pre-production but bit the bullet and proceeded to cast one actress. That was presumably Maria Schneider but he fired her and went ahead with his original idea.
I am currently at work at my first serious work of criticism, it’s on Bunuel and I’ve been thinking and reading and seeing a lot of his films. His movies from the very beginning have struck me as real in a very upsetting way. On seeing my first Bunuel, Belle de Jour, I’ve felt as I’ve always felt on seeing his films, that it was made for me. It was telling me something about myself. His films really get under your skin, its terrifying but its liberating.
Bunuel is I think the greatest surrealist artist(and one who still remains totally un-assimilable by any academic or popular mainstream) because he remains true to the roots of the movement. Surrealisme in French means Super-Realism.
Act? Maria doesn’t need to know about any of that stuff.
Sur-realism in French means super-realism in the sense of above or beyond realism. It’s like Herzog’s dismissal of cine-verite as “a merely superficial truth, the truth of accountants”. Surrealism aims for the REAL reality, which is beyond what things look like when you point a camera at them.
Quite right, it’s just that nowadays people have a cosmetic idea of surrealism which Bunuel is entirely above. He used to reproach Gabriel Figueroa for his obsession for landscapes which for him tended to become touristy…but his films are nonetheless visually beautiful in a very earthy way and his approach to it is nevertheless based on what his camera focuses on which is always shot with a great solidity, especially the dream scenes. Where he transforms it is in his cutting and his use of sound and music, his direction of actors.
As for Herzog, I’ve always felt that accountants have more to offer than him and I’ll take Jean Rouch’s cine-verite any day over his pompous stunts.
I’d say that, for instance, in Viridiana, there’s more truth about Spain than in a thousand documentaries (and we’re still like that, under the tinsel)
I’ve no problem with performers who can’t act in the technical sense – Maria Montez, Ursula Andress, Anita Ekberg, Joe Dallesandro – as long as there’s something attractive or beguiling about them in other ways.
Maria Schneider fails on both counts, for me. She seems like a nondescript non-performer who just happened to get cast in one nauseating and grossly overrated piece of garbage…LAST TANGO IN PARIS.
Rivette seems to have liked Schneider… And I think she’s genuinely good in her gratuitous little cameo in Blier’s Les Acteurs. Surprisingly, he gets over his misogyny and stops the film so she can tell her life story.