Buñuel, Luis

Buñuel, Luis
   Although Luis Buñuel was regarded as the foremost Spanish film director for over three decades, his actual Spanish output is surprisingly small: he produced and directed the documentary Las Hurdes, Tierra Sin Pan in 1932 (which was subsequently banned in Spain and was only released with a voice-over in France) and during the Second Republic was involved as line producer and script supervisor with Filmófono Studios. In 1960, he returned to Spain after a long exile to direct Viridiana (1961), but this film was also banned and disowned by the Spanish government after reviewers at the Cannes Film Festival (where it would go on to win the Palme d'Or) remarked on its "anti-Catholic" ideology. He then shot Tristana in 1970, his second Benito Pérez Galdós adaptation, in Spain, although this was an international co-production (with France and Italy). The main portion of his career took place between Mexico (where he shot 20 films between 1946 and 1965) and France (almost exclusively from 1966). Consequently, the best way to assess Buñuel as Spanish director is to see him as a very individual talent, with deep roots in traditional Spanish culture, who always shaped his own perspective according to a variety of cultural contexts.
   Buñuel was born in Calanda, Aragón, into a wealthy family of landowners. The memory of ancestral rituals and festivities, which he linked to primitive human impulses, would always remain part of his creative repertoire. He came to Madrid in 1917 to complete his education at the renowned Residencia de Estudiantes, a college for bright young men, where some of the luminaries of Spanish intellectual life in this fruitful period also studied. There he became friends with poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, a friendship that soured when he discovered Lorca was a homosexual. His key friendship in those years was with painter Salvador Dalí, with whom he shared an interest in the new "surrealist" sensitivity explored by Parisian artists at the time. Whereas Dalí would later become a member of the Surrealist school, who followed and reinforced some of its more doctrinaire aspects, for Buñuel surrealism became simply a method to express a unexpressed view of life.
   Proto-surrealist elements are present in the Hurdes documentary (for instance in the repeated images of a goat falling off a cliff). His two early experiments with a specific surrealist aesthetic in mind were shot in France: Un Chien Andalou (the title, "the andalusian dog" may have been a homophobic reference to former friend Lorca) in 1928, and in 1931 the feature length L'age d'or (Golden Age). The former, a huge success in intellectual circles, has some of the most perturbing imagery in film history: the shot of a cloud crossing over the moon edited with an eye being slit has been regarded as a sign of cinema's power to disturb and provoke. Provocation was even more intense in the second part of the surrealist diptych. Legend has it that for L'age d'or, Dalí and Buñuel conspired to make a film in which nothing would make any "sense" in an orthodox way (whenever something seemed to follow from previous events, he claimed in his memoir, they cut it out). Thus, they explored the ability of the mind to make connections beyond the structures of realism.
   During the Second Republic, Buñuel returned to Madrid, and his work at Filmófono studios was extensive and varied. Although he did not sign one film as director in those years (he is credited as line producer or script supervisor), critics have found his vision imprinted occasionally in films like La hija de Juan Simón (Juan Simón's Daughter, José Luis Sáenz de Heredia and Nemesio M. Sobrevilla, 1935) and Centinela Alerta (Watch Out, Sentinel!, Jean Grémillon, 1937). The outbreak of the Civil War caught him in France, where he supported the loyalists with documentary work. He knew that his liberal sympathies would prevent him from returning should the Fascists win, and when the outcome was clear in 1938, he accepted a job at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He resigned the post when it was discovered that he had been a card-carrying communist. Then he went to Hollywood, where he worked on Spanish versions of studio films at Warners. But he found the atmosphere uncomfortable, and so accepted the offer to shoot in Mexico a version of his former friend Lorca's House of Bernarda Alba. This project never came to fruition, but in 1946, he directed Gran Casino, a musical with two of the period's biggest stars: Jorge Negrete and Libertad Lamarque. He was dismissive of the experience, but the film was a great success and allowed him to continue to work in the Mexican film industry at a breathtaking pace.
   In those years, Buñuel alternated commercial projects in which he had very little personal input with more ambitious films drenched in personal themes (masculinity, class issues) and imagery. The commercial films have been reevaluated in recent years. In some instances, like Susana (1951) and Abismos de Pasión (Cliffs of Passion, 1954, his idiosyncratic version of Wuthering Heights set in the Mexico sierras), critics have perceived signs of surrealism in the exaggerated approach to plot and emotions and in the use of striking and unexpected images. Others argue that this was Buñuel's brand of realism: he did see reality in that way, and he saw the excess all around him. Like other artists, he regarded Mexico as "the most surrealist country in the world" (as he wrote in his memoir My Last Sigh), and its festivities and the obsession with death present in Mexican art were sources of inspiration in his later work.
   In 1950, he directed Los olvidados (The Forgotten Ones; also known as The Young and the Damned), which won both the directing and the international critics prize at the Cannes Festival the next year. It tells a story of violence and betrayal in the slums of Mexico City. Although presenting itself as a document rising out of social concerns, this was actually a very personal meditation on desire and the deep ancestral forces beneath civilized behavior. During the 1950s, Buñuel alternated strange parables on masculinity (such as El [ Him, 1953 ] and Ensayo de un crimen [ The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz, 1955 ], the film that opened the door to his career in the film industry) with further bread-and-butter melodramas, which were becoming more and more hysterical. Fascinating though these films were, they became increasingly difficult to market in Mexico, and Buñuel was soon aware that he had to move to a different context. Nazarín (based on a novel by Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós about a priest going through a crisis, 1958) can be seen as a definite step in that direction. He also shot two films in English: The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954) and The Young One (1960).
   In 1960, Buñuel was ready to return to work in Europe. He was offered Viridiana in Spain, financed in part by Gustavo Alatriste, a Mexican producer who wanted to get his wife, actress Silvia Pinal, a role that would gain her recognition in the European market. But the Spanish authorities forbade the film, and it was marketed as "Mexican." He returned to Mexico for two further films, which now alternated with unambitious efforts in Europe. In these latter Mexican films (El ángel exterminador / Exterminating Angel, 1962, and Simón del desierto / Simon of the Desert, 1965), one finds Buñuel experimenting with plot and dramatic situations. The first of these (which he shot without a proper script) is about a group of Mexico City bourgeois partygoers who become trapped in a dining room and are unable to escape, even though objectively, nothing seems to prevent them from leaving the room.
   By 1965, he was settling into the French industry, where he directed a series of films closer in spirit to surrealist explorations of sex and sexuality, most of them scripted by Jean-Claude Carriere. Belle de Jour (1967) was an exploration of a woman's sexual fantasies. Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, 1972), which some consider his best and most radical film, was a variation on the Exterminating Angel view of the paradoxes of the decadent wealthy classes and won him a well-deserved Academy Award. His last film was Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire), a story about a man's obsession with a woman (played by two different actresses representing two sides of her personality). He returned to Spain, where he was once again welcomed after the demise of Francoism, too late: Buñuel was not to make another film in his country. He died in 1983.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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  • Buñuel, Luis — born Feb. 22, 1900, Calanda, Spain died July 29, 1983, Mexico City, Mex. Spanish film director. As a student at the University of Madrid he met Salvador Dalí, with whom he later made the Surrealist film Un chien andalou (1928). Buñuel then… …   Universalium

  • Buñuel, Luis — b. 1900, Calanda (Teruel); d. 1983, Mexico City    Filmmaker    Buñuel occupies the most prominent position not only in Spanish film but in European surrealist film as a whole. No other Spanish director has left a comparable legacy of… …   Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture

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  • Buñuel, Luis — ► (1900 1983) Realizador cinematográfico español, nacionalizado mexicano. Vinculado a la generación del 27, se trasladó a París y en colaboración con Salvador Dalí realizó su primera película surrealista (V. surrealismo): El perro andaluz (1928) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Buñuel,Luis — Bu·ñu·el (bo͞o nyo͞o ĕlʹ), Luis. 1900 1983. Spanish director known for his studies of modern social manners in films such as Belle de Jour (1966) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). * * * …   Universalium

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  • Bunuel — Luis Buñuel Luis Buñuel (* 22. Februar 1900 in Calanda (Spanien); † 29. Juli 1983 in Mexiko Stadt, Mexiko) war ein spanisch mexikanischer Filmemacher, der in der Frühzeit des Films als surrealistischer Regisseur bekannt …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Luis Bunuel — Luis Buñuel Luis Buñuel (* 22. Februar 1900 in Calanda (Spanien); † 29. Juli 1983 in Mexiko Stadt, Mexiko) war ein spanisch mexikanischer Filmemacher, der in der Frühzeit des Films als surrealistischer Regisseur bekannt …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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