Carlos Saura Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[What I've seen of Saura's work]—The Hunt and The Garden of Delights—has been rather onerous: gravy-rich photography and ponderous symbolism, like the worst Czech and Polish and Latin-American films. A Spanish moralist without Buñuel's humor makes for a long evening.

Much brighter news from Saura with … Cousin Angelica….

[The] casting mixture is slightly confusing at first, but it's quickly sorted out, and its various points—of psychic implication and inheritance—are neatly made. (p. 26)

Saura handles the interplay of time with mostly extraordinary skill. The whole picture is directed with an ease that comes from no compulsion to prove anything, which was not true of the earlier Saura that I saw. There are now sharp edges of humor….

For a foreigner the picture's chief appeal is two kinds of travelogue: physical and psychological. The former, purely of landscape, should not be underrated…. The latter, from Spain, is still a relative novelty in the US. After every war come the questions about what the other side was really like…. Here, on a small scale, Saura gives us some idea of what a bourgeois Spanish family, very Catholic of course, thought of the war; how they lived; and how by indirection, it affected the way they live now.

But, interesting though it is, that's all the film does. The two time strands are juxtaposed and that's it. As for the protagonist himself, nothing happens. He arrives and he departs. He is just a mechanism. If the film was not to move toward some conclusion in him, then it needed a great deal more intrinsic weight as it went along. Aside from the travelogue rewards (which obviously don't apply in Spain), there are only the familiar tugs of time gone irretrievably by. The picture doesn't finish, it just ends. It's very much worth seeing, but it's not finally satisfying. (p. 27)

Stanley Kauffmann, "Old Wars" (reprinted by permission of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc.; copyright © 1977 by Stanley Kauffmann), in The New Republic, Vol. 176, No. 22, May 28, 1977, pp. 26-7.∗