Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Homage a Don Luis Bunuel: Cet Obscur Objet du Desir @ 30

As a young person I was always searching. Knowledge, beauty, the mad Freudian drive for sex... in that sense I was certainly like the billions of other kids who've walked this earth. But about the age of 15 I stumbled over Surrealism in the form of Dali. I was intrigued by the "outlandishness" of his paintings and public persona. It'd be only a few years later that I'd find out what a buffoon he was; excommunicated by Surrealism's pope Breton, and castigated by said pope in typical Surrealist fashion who dubbed the Spaniard "Avida Dollars," an apt anagram derived from Dali's name. To this day I don't care for his ideas which come off as facile.

His fellow Spaniard Luis Bunuel is another story. Is anyone's life ever the same after seeing this:

What was so amazing about Don Luis was the consistency of his morality and the way it infused everything, his entire life. Though he'd eventually leave the movement that launched him into history, he never forgot - nor forsook - the skies of his youth.

And so it is that I pay homage to one of the most sublime things ever spawned by this wretched, magnificent world, Don Luis' "Cet Obscur Objet du Desir." (1977)

It's useless to say anything about it from a critical standpoint that hasn't been psyched up in books and articles. What's remarkable about COOOD (besides it's beauty) is that Don Luis made it, his last film, at the age of 77.

The few times I've been lucky enough to see interviews with Don Luis I've been captivated by his joi de vivre. A real raconteur, it's easy to see why his free spirit couldn't be held down by something obscene like a studio system. (For a brief moment he attempted to work at Warner Bros. as I recall, and tells of a sad and yet revealing story of von Sternberg during this time).

It would be Bunuel himself who would provide, I think, one of the best definitions of Surrealism: it was a poetic and moral movement. Now, many years later, after the blush of my youthful romance with Surrealism has long faded, I couldn't agree more.

He was legendary in his lust for life, smoking and drinking all the way through, and yet I've never encountered a more lucid and intoxicating person. Deneuve once said that don Luis was "more than a director."

There's a scene at the end of COOdD where Conchita and Mathieu stop in front of a window. There, they see a seamstress sewing a bloody lace mantilla. Conchita and Mathieu stare at the seamstress; Bunuel comes in tighter on the darning, Conchita and Mathieu exchange words, but he shoots it from the perspective of the seamstress, inside the shop so we can't hear what they're saying. Suddenly the conversation heats up. And then...

The scene, for some unexplainable reason, is strangely moving. And like much of the Surrealist adventure, that's apropos.