Release Date: Feb. 9
Director: Luis Buñuel
Writer: Buñuel; Buñuel
and Luis Alejandro
Starring: Sylvia Pinal, Enrique
Rambal; Pinal, Claudio Brook.
Studio/Run Time: The Criterion
Collection, 93 mins., 45 mins.
Decades before Lost or even The
Twilight Zone, director Luis Buñuel was creating
hallucinatory experiences out of mundane reality, deranging the
commonplace to sly, subversive effect. The peripatetic Spaniard
invented surrealist cinema with his friend Salvador Dali in 1929,
claiming a place in art history via the eyeball-slicing scandal of Un
Chien Andalougain a foothold in either New York or Hollywood before finally
establishing a middle-aged career shooting often melodramatic—and
overlooked—commercial fare in Mexico.
The Exterminating Angel, from
1962, comes near the end of that phase, circles back to Buñuel’s
creative origins, and prefigures one of his European arthouse
classics, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisieway into David Lynch’s movies) ratchet up the weirdness. The
release makes a one-two punch with Simon of the Desert, a
short originally intended to be part of a multi-director trilogy. One
of Buñuel’s funniest satires, it sends up the piety of the
fabled saint, who stood atop a pillar in the desert for “six years,
six months and six days.” Mexican star Sylvia Pinal (who played the
title role in the anti-clerical classic Viridiana) returns as
a seductive Satan, tempting Simon with her carnal charms, while the
ascetic crustbucket grows ever more insufferable. Finally, the devil
whisks him away to witness the anguish of the wicked in flames: an
unforgettable coda. Hell, it seems, is a swinging discotheque! It’s
a perfect Buñuelian irony.