A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Buñuel, 1977)

Fernando Rey in That Obscure Object of Desire
Mathieu: Fernando Rey
Conchita: Carole Bouquet, Ángela Molina
Édouard: Julien Bertheau
Martin: André Weber
Encarnación (Conchita's mother): María Asquerino
The Psychologist: Piéral

Director: Luis Buñuel
Screenplay: Luis Buñuel in collaboration with Jean-Claude Carrière
Based on a novel by Pierre Louÿs
Cinematography: Edmond Richard
Production design: Pierre Guffroy
Fernando Rey's voice dubbed by Michel Piccoli

In my comments on Luis Buñuel's Belle de Jour (1967) I expressed my attitude toward solving what some people think of as that film's riddles as "like concentrating on the threads at the expense of seeing the tapestry." And I'll stick with that. I'm not particularly interested in why Buñuel cast two actresses in the role of Conchita in That Obscure Object of Desire, or why Mathieu occasionally carries around a burlap sack, or even why the central story, of Mathieu's efforts to consummate his desire for Conchita, plays out against a background of terrorist attacks. I know that Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière toyed with the idea of multiple casting even before the film began with a single actress, Maria Schneider, in the role, and that Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina got the part after Buñuel had difficulties working with Schneider. I know, too, that the theory has been advanced that Conchita is a terrorist and that she finally sleeps with Mathieu after he agrees to become one, too -- hence the bomb that explodes at the end of the film. (A theory that reduces a masterwork to the level of hack thriller-filmmaking.) I'm sure that someone has come up with an explanation for the burlap sack, too, along with the fly in Mathieu's drink and the mouse caught in a trap and any other incidental detail that sticks in viewers' minds and can be fitted into an elaborately reductive network of symbolism. But my ultimate response to all of these enigmatic details is delight that they are there, that they popped up in Buñuel's mind as he made the film and that he could and did get away with them. They are what keeps me coming back to Buñuel's films with renewed interest and revived delight, viewing after viewing.

Watched on Filmstruck

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