By Aaron Hillis
By Casey Burchby
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Calum Marsh
By Kera Bolonik
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Ernest Hardy
By Eric Hynes
Buñuel was a youthful fan of American slapstick, and wherever this prankish Spaniard went and whatever he did, he never ceased to thumb his nose at bourgeois convention. His oeuvre is an ongoing private joke: "I'm an atheist . . . Thank God!" Hitchcock delighted in manipulating the audience; Buñuel was satisfied with amusing himself. Even his weakest movies are a trove of casual blasphemies, perverse details, and irrational asides. (Thanks to these trademarks, there may be no auteur more recognizable or dearer to the adolescent cinephile.)
The retro's first week includes movies that the young Buñuel admired or worked on as an assistant director. Un Chien Andalou is paired with its even more outrageous follow-up, L'Age d'Or. There's also Regarding Buñuel, a fond documentary portrait that shows the artist as weirdly staid, convivial yet compulsive, with a ritualistic fondness for martinis and mischief. The second week showcases what might be termed Buñuel's Communist period. These films include the incendiary documentary Las Hurdes, produced in Spain's most backward region, the little-seen Spanish Civil War agitprop España, and the four almost unknown features he supervised in Republican Spain. Buñuel (who was most likely a member of the French CP from 1929 to 1938) always dismissed this work, although in Regarding Buñuel, it is recalled that he referred to this period as the "happiest" of his life.
Luis Buñuel: A Retrospective
Museum of Modern Art
Through January 2
Directed by Steven Brill
Written by Brill, Adam Sandler, and Tim Herlihy
A New Line release
An antifascist refugee in the U.S., Buñuel failed to catch on in Hollywood, although he did spend three years working for MOMA's film department, where, among other things, he reedited the short version of Triumph of the Will, which the museum distributes to this day. Resigning before he could be outed as a red, Buñuel reestablished himself in the relative obscurity of the Mexican movie industry, grinding out hilariously subversive potboilers throughout the 1950s before his triumphant return to European art cinema. These Mexican features will be showing through Christmas, and in some respects they seem like Buñuel's greatest work. As his longtime collaborator Jean-Claude Carrière puts it in Regarding Buñuel: "He wanted his films to have the power of strangeness without themselves being strange."
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