THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE
DIRECTOR: Luis Bunuel
CAST: Fernando Rey, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Julien Bertheau, Andre Weber, Milena Vikotucic
WRITTEN BY: Luis Bunuel and Jean Claude Carriere.
CAMERA BY: Edmond Richard
ONE WORD: Heck of a surrealistic story...
Quoting Vincent Canby on Bunuel:
" What is the extraordinary Bunuel telling us in this film, the 77 year old master's 30th feature since L'Age d'Or (1930) and a comedy to match the best of his recent work, including "The Exterminating Angel" and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie"? Almost as many things, I suspect, as there are people who see film, but mainly he is sharing with us a view of life as seen by an artist who's old as our century and whose creative impulse has not, as usually happens to film makers, been dampened by the years. Instead, it has been refined to an easy control and a perfection more often seen in painters and writers than among people who make movies in the furious hustle of the market place. "
Fifteen years later, this film is still very good.
Bunuel's films are difficult to explain to an audience that is not used to seeing films which resemble a conglomeration of images rather than the conventional stories with events and climaxes, which are on the television set everyday. Yes, they have a story, and at the simplest, they are just as conventional as anything else, if we have to just find the thread, or the theme, of the story. THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE is simply a film about a man whose age is advancing, whose intellectual ability finds him 'superior' to many things which pass by him at all, and every corner, of his day, from his drive to work, or from his daily routines. However, like most of us, he has a soft interior disguised behind his hard exterior.
Mathieu starts out his day on the way to work. His limousine's trip is interrupted by an automobile ahead of his, which has been exploded in an attempt to kill the new Archbishop of Sienna (by a group of guerrillas called the Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus no less), his lunch is interrupted in the fashionable restaurant by a fly that falls on his martini, while on a stroll on his favorite church he is visited by two black robed women, one of which shows him her child -- a pink snouted piglet, and while he is having a difficult time discussing with the parents of the beautiful girl he wants to marry, a loud snap is heard, and a mouse is trapped. Nothing bothers him.
Until he is married to Conchita. The saintly face, the he desires is not the same face he wants. He wants the extremely carefree whore for his wife, disguised under the saintly looks. And of course, his world begins falling apart.
What is most astounding about all this, is the fact that the film had already started shooting, when the lead actress had to leave, and she was replaced by two women. One became the saintly face that Mathieu wishes, while another becomes the vixen he really wants the rest of the time. And to add to Mathieu's confusion is the fact that the woman changes so fast right in front of him, that he, for once, does not know how to react... with his social face free of response, or with his private, insecure, and libertine nature.
It is a typical Bunuel film in that it really gets into the meat of a person's mind, forcing him ( or her ) to come to grips with the persona. More often than not, these characters tend to cheat on themselves, and eventually finding that they have to start all over. The images, happen so fast, and unexpectedly, that it is difficult at times to figure out what is going on, but as is the case in almost all of Bunuel's films, the whole thing may just be happening inside the man's mind, rather than outside...though the later years, his films begun dealing with the reactions we have to the external world, as this film clearly starts, and then reverts back to the inner confusion and frustration of the leading character.
Written by Jean Claude Carriere, who wrote over ten films with Bunuel, it has the beautiful mix of surrealistic behavior, in the form of the totally unexpected, and the character whose mind is incapable of making choices and sticking with it... somehow, there is always a wrench in the works.
This is an excellent film that will make one think, and though a comedy, it comes across with much more than that. A searing observation on a double standard we (as humans) usually apply to ourselves. And it is clear to the film maker that people are just not very interested in resolving that point.
There are no gags in this comedy, just events.... which is the real secret to his style.
MUST SEE. ONE OF THE BEST WRITING FILM MAKERS EVER AT WORK. His originality is second to none. David Lynch fans would leave him behind in the mud, if they ever saw a Bunuel film or two.
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