Luis Bunuel is a well known director, well not for the average audiences, but if you take an interest in Cinema then you would have heard of him, and after a while you'll probably get around to some of his films.Well, that's what happened to me anyway...
Seeing as I only recently became interested in Bunuel's work, I have yet too see many of his films as he was quite a prolific director.
But here are my thoughts on the few I have seen, and I hope that if you aren't familiar with his work you'll be interested in it after reading my thoughts on a handful of his films.
Un Chien Andalou 1928 :
Luis Bunuel's first film.
It's an experimental film more than anything else and a dabble in surrealism in cinema. This is easily the oldest surreal film I have ever seen.
It has no plot and doesn't mean anything, it's not symbolism. There is no point trying to comprehend each scene. But even if I didn't understand it, I still enjoyed it a lot. Very entertaining, often hilarious, and quite an inspiration for making low budget indie films.
This short film is full of surprises and disturbing imagery, it's definitely worth a watch.
I think it's widely considered a masterpiece these days, except by people who always demand rational explanations even of things such as this.
A strong start to a great career.
The Exterminating Angel 1962:
It's very well made, and well acted, but what stood out the most is the wonderfully original story, I won't go into any details, you'll just have to see it for yourself. As I was saying, the story is very original, it might appear simple at first and I was doubtful about whether it would be interesting enough for a whole film, but by the end I just didn't want it to finish, simply gripping.
The film contains various surreal visuals and dreams, but even though the whole context and pretty much everything about the film is surreal and strange, it didn't feel that way, all along it felt rather logical, maybe that's due to the brilliant script or the excellent performances, but I just didn't get the sense of an all out surrealist piece along the lines of Un Chien Andalou, this seemed more like controlled surrealism, if such a thing exists.
If you see one of the films mentioned here, let it be this one.
Luis Bunuel's Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 1953:
Bunuel was already know for being a rather shocking director by the time he directed this adaptation of Daniel DeFoe's famous novel, but people were again shocked by this film, mainly because there was nothing shocking about it!! Another strange entry into his filmography.
I think everyone is familiar with the story of Robinson Crusoe, it has been told many times and adapted onto the screen many times, but this is by far the finest screen adaptation ever made, it remains as true to the book as possible, and is well paced and entertaining.
It also benefits from a strong performance by the lead actor as Crusoe, I believe he won many awards.
This isn't really the kind of film you would expect from Bunuel but I would still recommend it, it really is a great story and I liked the fact that it proves that Bunuel is capable of making different films that what people had come to expect.
The Milky Way
The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie 1972:
Now I'll take a look at some of Bunuels' later work, the films he directed in France during the 70's, the last films of his career.
These films are lighter and more entertaining, and mix social commentary with hilarious situations very well.
This one has a rather vague plot, a few friends just want to sit down and have a meal but they keep getting distracted, the plot is often forgotten as the film delves off into strange territories and situations each weirder than the other. It also contains interesting dream segments, and even dreams within dreams (take that Inception!).
Very good performances from a very large cast, this also contains Jean Pierre Cassel, father of the actor Vincent Cassel. Bunuel is exceptionally talented in the handling of large casts in my opinion.
The film contains a considerable amount of barely concealed social critique, especially of the Bourgeoisie, this is something Bunuel would become renowned for, and he does it very well. But it really isn't very serious, the whole film lacks a serious air and that makes it even more enjoyable, which is great because otherwise it might of become rather repetitive.
Not a truly amazing film, but entertaining nonetheless, there isn't much to fault about it, but it's not Bunuels best.
The Phantom Of Liberty 1974:
This one has many similarities with the previously mentioned film, many members of the cast reappear and the overall feel is so similar this could be a sequel.
But there are some differences, the plot line is much vaguer, in fact there isn't any, it is very episodic, and after dealing with one "episode" it moves to another seemingly randomly. The "episodes vary in quality, they are all good but some of them are funnier than others and some are down right disturbing.
The social critique is present, and quite strong, although it is often hard to grasp what Bunuel's getting at, if he's eve, getting at something at all.
This is a very confusing film, that shouldn't really be understood but just enjoyed. It's generally pretty silly and I think it reduced the social critique and general plot line, to be as silly as possible.
Cet Objet Obscur Du Desir.
Well that is as far as I've got into this director's filmography so far, as I said before he was a pretty prolific director and I look forward to seeing more of his work.
My impression so far are largely favourable, I think his early work and his later work differ considerably, while they both share many surreal qualities his early work employed those qualities in a more serious way and thus the films were more meaningful, his later work however concentrated more on the comedic side of this surrealness, and produced more entertaining yet less gripping films.
Luis Bunuel is ,in my opinion, one of the great directors. His work is definitely very unique and his style is quite recognisable, I especially like his camerawork, which is full of movement and almost seems to glide around the actors. I especially like the technique he sometimes uses to fade to the next scene, he has the actor walk right up into the camera until all is black, then the next shot appears, this has been done loads of times since but his films make the best and earliest use of it.
Bunuel never really directed any films in Spain although that was his homeland, he started his career in France, then fled to Mexico where he spent the rest of his life, although he did return to France to make his last films as the Golden Age of Mexican cinema was past by then. A very interesting director and a seemingly interesting person, Cinema really lost one of it's greats when he died but at least he left behind a magnificent Filmography.
Of course there are many more films I wish to see, when I do I might write what I think about them here.
Here are a few I plan on seeing as soon as possible so as to make my knowledge of Bunuel's work more complete:
The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz
Death in the Garden
The Milky Way
That Obscure Object of Desire
Please let me know your thoughts on the films I've written about, on the ones I plan to watch and on Bunuel in general!