Luis Buñuel

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Peter P. Schillaci

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Through forty years of filmmaking, Luis Bunuel has been opening our eyes to see what might otherwise evade our notice. And he is not averse to using a razor slash where it is appropriate. (p. 111)

The personal dimension in each Bunuel film converts the body of his work into a mosaic of the man. (pp. 111-12)

Whatever else he has done, Luis Bunuel has consistently demythologized a vestigially Christian culture, and he has done so since long before theologians announced that God is dead. He has gone from avant-garde visual theatrics to a bland, straightforward directorial style, all the time nourishing the same obsession—to lay to rest all the myths, secular and religious, which diminish man's freedom. (pp. 112-13)

There is no way to "prove" Bunuel's demythologizing role. But the idea can be made plausible and even informative if we can develop it out of his remarkable films, rather than out of a theological context….

[It] is characteristic of Bunuel's work that the contents of its subconscious core of meaning can only be suggested. His images, like fragments of a dream, invite a sensitive reflection on the psyche that produced them. (p. 113)

The life of Un Chien Andalou is found, not in [a] catalog of actions and images, but in the shocking and provocative associations it freely creates and breaks. The film confirms Bunuel's contention that cinema is "the superior way of expressing the world of dreams, emotions and instincts."…. Characters do not unify the experience. They are all marked by an ambiguous sexuality—effeminate men and mannish women—but they are inconsistent even within these categories. The abrupt and exaggerated eruptions of emotion strike the contemporary viewer as ludicrous, but they are clearly related to the perverse sexuality which rejects any expressive control of the passions. (pp. 118-19)

The dreamlike quality of the film is a function not only of the rejection of waking logic, but of the casual way it presents the most bizarre disjunctions. At times, as in the dying fall of the domineering man, the dream fantasy becomes poetic, beginning in the apartment and ending in the park, where his hand grazes the naked back of a woman in a statuary pose. At other times, the dream becomes a nightmare of nameless fears, pursuits, and frustrations. Throughout, sexual symbols provide what little associational unity exists among the images. They are a catalog of Freudian metaphors, too complex to analyze in detail. (p. 119)

As in the case of Bunuel's first film, [the] action tells us little about L'Age d'Or. But if we turn to another level of images, a pattern of relationships emerges…. The separation of the lovers is not a mere distraction, but the very premise of the new religious society. The couple represents amour fou, the mad, single-minded passion which Bunuel uses to symbolize the natural man, unfettered by time and space, tabu or custom. The Church's frustration of the natural man is its demise. (pp. 121-22)

The ending of the film shows that Bunuel's associational unity is more in control than in his first film…. Even the "story" manifests more continuity, as the frustrated love of Lya Lys and Gaston Modot encounters the repressive sexuality of the culture. But in spite of all these elements, discontinuity is still the salient feature of the film. The emotional reversals of the couple are bizarre, played at the height of rage or lust, disorienting the viewer. Hints of sexual perversion abound as warped expressions of the simple love (amour fou) which the Church denies. The result is incest, foot fetishism, and such deviate sexuality as the De Sade episode's ultimate degeneracy.

The religious comment of L'Age d'Or, if one can summarize it, shows the Church shipwrecked on the hard, unyielding rock of human nature. (pp. 123-24)

[Un Chien Andalou, L'Age d'Or, and Las Hurdes ] are subject to reinterpretation in the light of subsequent Bunuel works, but their consistency with the most important and the most trivial of...

(The entire section is 1,656 words.)