Bunuelian

Picked up a copy of the old Pelican paperback Film Makers on Film Making. Essays and the like by Edwin S. Porter, D.W. Griffith, Chaplin, Stroheim, Vertov, Cocteau, Resnais, etc.

But Luis Bunuel is the guy who actually blows the roof off. By comparison, everyone else seems to be on their best behaviour. I think I’ll probably post some quotes from the rest — Griffith “predicting” what cinema and society will be like in 2024 is of possible interest — but I have to start with Don Luis.

Octavio Paz has said, “But that a man in chains should shut his eyes, the world would explode.” And I could say: But that the white eyelid of the screen reflect its proper light, the Universe would go up in flames. But for the moment we can sleep in peace: the light of the cinema is conveniently dosified and shackled.

AND

In my opinion, the real responsibility for the spiritual stagnation of cinema lies with the amorphous mass, routinary and conformist, that makes up the audience. The producer limits himself merely to throwing to the beasts the food they demand of him.

AND

The true ‘opium of the audience’ is conformity; and the entire, gigantic film world is dedicated to the propagation of this comfortable feeling, wrapped though it is at times in the insidious disguise of art.

(Italics mine.)

21 Responses to “Bunuelian”

  1. David Ehrenstein Says:

    SING OUT LUIS !

  2. The other filmmaker who talks in manifestos is Dziga Vertov, and he’s very good at it, comes up with striking images, but he’s not as compelling as Bunuel, maybe because there’s nothing surprising about a soviet filmmaker talking in manifesto-speak.

  3. wow. Every word truer today

  4. Bunuel’s description of current conditions in the early sixties definitely works better as prophecy than DW Griffith’s attempt to predict conditions in the 21st century’s film industry… as we shall see.

  5. Not exactly an auteurist perspective…

  6. Bunuel situates himself in this world as a somewhat frustrated auteur, and probably didn’t consider himself alone in this.

  7. I mean that the auteurists were more like, “Hey, those movies made for the routinary and conformist amorphous mass – some of them are actually pretty good.”

  8. That’s true. But I think the view that cinema could achieve even more if the audience wanted it to and rewarded it, was also quite widespread. Incidentally, I have no idea what Bunuel thought of Lang’s Hollywood films, Lang being the only filmmaker I know he was a fan of.

  9. David Ehrenstein Says:

    I wonder if Sondheim knows those quotes. He could use them for the Bunuel musical he’s been working on for the last few Years.

  10. Now, what was the unfinished, abandoned Sondheim musical I just read a reference to? It was a couple of days ago. Can’t recall what I was reading (too many books open, too many tabs). Now I’m going to have to go in search of a big list of Sondheim trunk projects…

  11. The most famous one, because Bunuel used it more than once and friends went on quoting it — Alex Cox used it in his unfilmed Bunuel script (planned for Walter Matthau) — “If it were possible for me, I would make films which, apart from entertaining the audience, would convey to them the absolute certainty that THEY DO NOT LIVE IN THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS.” (A Bunuel Candide might be quite something.) And he goes on: “And in doing this I believe that my intentions would be highly constructive. Movies today, including the so-called neorealist, are dedicated to a task contrary to this. How is it possible to hope for an improvement in the audience — and consequently in the producers — when every day we are told in these films, even in the most insipid comedies, that our social institutions, our concepts of Country, Religion, Love, etc, etc, are, while perhaps imperfect, UNIQUE AND NECESSARY?”

  12. David Ehrenstein Says:

    The abandoned Sondheim musical you were thinking of perhaps was a project the “West Side Story” team briefly considering in that show’s wake. I forget what it was exactly but there was an NYT article.

    There was also may years back “Singing Out Loud” which I believe was planned for television. You can find some songs from it on collections of rare Sondheim.

  13. This is driving me nuts now. I made a mental note to look into it, but I’ve forgotten what I was to look into. I remember it was REALLY WEIRD, and my first reaction was, “Well, of course that would never make a show!”

    Maybe I dreamed it?

  14. I’ve remembered! I will write something about it. I now think it would make an amazing show, but you’d have to invent most of it afresh.

  15. Mike Clelland Says:

    I went to NYU film school in 1081, and Robert Stam taught an amazing class called Hitchcock/Bunuel. In each class, he would compare and contrast films by the two masters. A joy.

  16. Mike Clelland Says:

    above… 1081 = 1981 (thirty-nine years ago)

  17. chris schneider Says:

    Only just got around to reading this. Quite good. But as far as the Sondheim thing is concerned … perhaps you’re referring to the collaboration with playwright David Ives, the proposed combined musicalization of EXTERMINATING ANGEL and DISCREET CHARM? I read a 2017 report of workshops, but then in 2018 the journal Everything Sondheim said that “Sondheim is reportedly no longer collaborating with David Ives on this project.” That’s the last I‘ve heard, at least. Perhaps the fact that composer Thomas Ades has turned EXTERMINATING ANGEL into an opera was a discouraging factor.

  18. No, it’s something else… will report on it on Tuesday, I suspect. Still hammering the post into shape.

    You’ve probably read about it at some point, though.

  19. You’re probably familiar with it, but just in case you aren’t, Bunuel’s autobiography My Last Sigh is one of the best books (on film or otherwise) I’ve ever read.

  20. It’s excellent. It’s really an “as told to” with Jean-Claude Carriere as the bloke writing it down.

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