Bruising My Religion


After 13 years of establishing his post-surrealist voice in the penny arcade of Mexican cinema, Luis Buñuel returned to Franco-ruled, censorship-crazed Spain and made, characteristically, the most incendiary feature of his mature career. Viridiana (1961) is no less than a schematic attack on Catholic piety, with Silvia Pinal’s sugar-spun nun returning to her uncle’s estate only to have the old lech (Fernando Rey) drug her and lie about raping her so as to corner the traumatized virgin into marriage. From there, it’s suicide, betrayal, and a catastrophic experiment in philanthropy, as still devout Viridiana transforms the estate into a hostel for the homeless, who gleefully turn on her like plague rats. Buñuel enjoyed viewing Christianity as a fat whore at which to throw rotten fruit, but Viridiana is also a clawhammered critique of liberal aristos, responsible for constructing a society that creates a beggar class and then “doing good” through fits of unwelcome charity. The film was banned in Spain, condemned by the Vatican, and awarded top prize at Cannes. Among the DVD extras are three interviews, one with Buñuel from a 1964 episode of Cinéastes de Notre Temps.