Viva Buñuel!: A Film Retrospective at BAM

The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s BAM Rose Cinemas is hosting a retrospective of 32 of Spanish auteur Luis Buñuel’s films made between 1929 and 1977. Although I missed the film that opened the festival, Los Olvidados (1950), I got the chance to see Buñuel’s macabre comedy The Criminal Life of Archibaldo De La Cruz (1955), which was great. It combines themes that recurred throughout Buñuel’s career: sex, violence and hidden desires (and on occasion, lacy undergarments). Here are a few of the other movies that will be playing at BAM’s festival, which continues for the next month until August 14.

Un Chien Andalou (1929) – Tuesday, July 15 – One of the most infamous edits in film history involving this eyeball and this razor can be seen in this Surrealist short film, a landmark in international cinema which was made in collaboration with artist Salvador Dalí.

Susana (1951) – Thursday, July 17 – This melodrama of a young woman’s sexual awakening, starring Rosita Quintana in the lead role, is a forerunner of the title women in Buñuel’s Viridiana and Belle de Jour.

Viridiana (1961) – Friday, July 18 and Saturday, July 19 – Surrealism swirls through this drama of religion, incest, the music of Bach, Handel and Mozart and an extended dinner scene reminiscent of The Last Supper.

El Bruto (aka The Brute) (1953) – Thursday, July 24 – Pedro Armendáriz and Katy Jurado, two Mexican actors who found success in Hollywood, star in a drama that could be viewed as an update of the Frankenstein story.

Robinson Crusoe (aka The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe) (1954) – Tuesday, July 29 – Buñuel’s only foray into Hollywood filmmaking tells Daniel Defoe’s seafaring adventure tale. The film received an Oscar nomination for Dan O’Herlihy’s lead performance, the first time that any of Buñuel’s films was recognized by the Academy.

The Young One (1960) – Thursday, July 31 – This production, filmed in Mexico but with dialogue in English, stars American actors Zachary Scott (best known for the 1940s films The Southerner, Mildred Pierce, Cass Timberlane and Flamingo Road), Bernie Hamilton and Crahan Denton in a story of a black jazz musician on the lam.

Belle de Jour (1967) – Friday, August 1 through Sunday, August 3 – Buñuel’s masterpiece (in my opinion) stars Catherine Deneuve as a housewife in a stagnant marriage who unlocks her inner passion and a kind of autonomy when she secretly begins work as an upscale call girl. Deneuve’s beauty, Sacha Vierny’s lush cinematography and Yves Saint Laurent’s très chic clothes are all exquisite.

Wuthering Heights (1954) – Tuesday, August 5 – This retelling of Emily Brontë’s classic Victorian novel transplants the story to Mexico in the 1800s. The film’s Spanish-language title, Abismos de pasión, translates to The Abyss of Passion.

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) – Friday, August 8 – Buñuel’s final film stars French actress Carole Bouquet and Spanish actress Ángela Molina as the same character, Conchita, a maid who is coveted by her employer (Fernando Rey). Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière adapted the screenplay from a book by Pierre Louÿs.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) – Saturday, August 9 – Winner of the 1973 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (France) as well as a nominee for Best Original Screenplay (another Buñuel-Carrière collaboration), this famously surreal and dreamlike film features many of the most recognizable faces in world cinema, including Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Bulle Ogier, Stéphane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Claude Piéplu and Michel Piccoli.


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