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May 03, 1978 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1978-05-03

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Page 8-Wednesday, May 3, 1978-The Michigan Daily
That charming movie of Bunuel

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
Prior to 1972, when The Discreet
Charm of the Bourgeoisie came out,
Luis Bunuel's films were always
sparked by an intense feeling of
outrage. Whether his subject was the
hypocrisy of modern religion, or a
poverty-stricken youth culture and its
shocking capability for cruelty, Bunuel
stood out as the champion of uncom-

promising bitterness, his erratically
brilliant work puncturing pretensions
with stinging perception.
Could Bunuel's sensibility have un-
dergone a dramatic about-face as he
entered his seventh decade? Well, not
entirely. The old Bunuel lurked beneath
the surface of The Discreet Charm. Yet
his attitude toward the material had
become benignly accepting, even

serene; if Bunuel had no intention of
honoring the less-than-admirable
values we might harbor within, maybe
he decided life would be simpler if he
could find the humor in it. The
bourgeoisie became his playthings -
naughty children who were never-
theless too ridiculous to do much harm.
Lest he be accused of ethical cam-
piness, however, it was apparent that
this move represented no lapse into
moral, or artistic, passivity. God
knows, we surely didn't need to be told
where Bunuel's sympathies lay, and it
seemed he might just be trying to have
things both ways - to make his point,
and enjoy it, too. Like a true master, he
succeeded, maintaining his 20-20 in-
sight while betraying an inner peace
which overshadowed the demise of The
Crusader.
SO IT IS with Bunuel's latest, That
Obscure Object of Desire, a movie cut
from the same cloth as The Discreet
Charm -and Phantom of Liberty. The
old Bunuelian nuances are there, as
unmistakable and occasionally as
stinging as ever, but now he floods his
medium with utter delight. The antics
of human beings have become too much
fun for him to get stirred up over. That
Obscure Object is not as satisfying as
The Discreet Charm - the latter is
stylistically richer and more varied -
but it has the identical infectious,
lighthearted spirit. At the age of 77, it's
apparent that Bunuel hasn't lost it.
He plunges into the action of his new
film with typically playful absurdity, as

Mathieu (Fernando Rey), a worldly
and unspeakably rich middle-aged
bachelor, departs from a luxurious
Seville country house and boards a
train back to Paris. His travelling com-
partment includes a woman and her
young daughter, as well asa three-foot-
tall "professor of psychology," all of
whom are coincidentally also headed
for Paris. Just before they begin to roll,
Mathieu spies a young woman walking
hurriedly alongside the train, requests
that the porter bring him a bucket of
water, and proceeds to calmly dump its
contents square on the woman's head.
NOTING THAT his fellow passengers
might have reason to doubt his sanity,
he explains that the victim is "the worst
of all women," and that his only alter-
native to drenching her would have
been to murder her. Strong words, it
might seem, to apply to such an out-
wardly inoffensive bystander, but
Mathieu now proceeds to unwind his in-
volved story, and by the film's end, his
action seems no longer implausible, but
reasonably justified as well.
He first met the woman (named Con-
chita) when she arrived at his mansion
as a hired servant. The "problem" in
their ensuing relationship becomes
clear soon enough: she offers nothing
but teasingly succulent glances from
their first encounter, but categorically
refuses to succumb to his advances. She
sits in Mathieu's lap, then coos, "I'm
not that kind of girl.' She claims that
although she loves him, he'll stop loving
See BUNUEL, Page 9

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