Luis Buñuel: Wikis

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Luis Buñuel
Born Luis Buñuel Portolés
22 February 1900
Calanda, Teruel, Aragón, Spain
Died 29 July 1983 (aged 83)
Mexico City, Mexico
Occupation Filmmaker
Years active 1929–1977
Spouse(s) Jeanne Buñuel (1925-his death)

Luis Buñuel Portolés (Spanish pronunciation: [lwis buˈɲwel]; 22 February 1900 – 29 July 1983) was a Spanish-born filmmaker who acquired Mexican citizenship and worked in Mexico, France, and also in his native Spain and the United States. He is considered one of finest directors in the history of cinema.[1]

Contents

Family

Buñuel was born in Calanda, province of Teruel in Aragon, Spain. His parents were Leonardo Buñuel and María Portolés; he had two brothers, Alfonso and Leonardo, and four sisters, Alicia, Concepción, Margarita and María. He married Jeanne Rucar in 1934 and they remained married throughout his life. His sons are Rafael and the director Juan Luis; Diego Buñuel, filmmaker and host of the National Geographic Channel's Don't Tell My Mother series, is his grandson.

Formation and Career

Buñuel had a strict Jesuit education at the Colegio del Salvador in Zaragoza from which he was expelled. Later he went to university in Madrid. While studying at the University of Madrid (current-day Universidad Complutense de Madrid) he became a very close friend of painter Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca, among other important Spanish artists living in the Residencia de Estudiantes. Buñuel first studied the natural sciences and agronomy, then engineering, but later switched to philosophy. The 2009 biopic Little Ashes gives an account of the relationship of Dalí, Lorca, and Buñuel at this time.

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First French Period

In 1925, he moved to Paris where he began work as a secretary in an organization called the International Society of Intellectual Cooperation. He later found work in France as a director's assistant to Jean Epstein on Mauprat (1926), Mario Nalpas on La Sirène des Tropiques (1927) starring Josephine Baker, and Epstein on his adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's La chute de la maison Usher (1928). He then co-wrote and directed a 16-minute short film Un chien andalou (1929) with Dalí. This film, featuring a series of startling and sometimes horrifying images of Freudian nature (such as what appears to be the slow slicing of a woman's eyeball with a razor blade) was enthusiastically received by French surrealists of the time, and continues to be shown regularly in film societies to this day.

He followed this film with L'Âge d'or (1930), partly based on the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. The film was begun as a second collaboration with Dalí but became Buñuel's solo project after a falling-out they had before filming began. During this film he worked around his technical ignorance by filming mostly in sequence and using nearly every foot of film that he shot. L'Âge d'or was read to be an attack on Catholicism, and thus, precipitated an even larger scandal than Un chien andalou. The right-wing press criticized the film and the police placed a ban on it that lasted 50 years.

Uneasy interludes abroad

Spain

Following L'Âge d'or, Buñuel returned to Spain and directed Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread, 1933), a documentary on peasant life. This was a convulsive period which led, in 1936, to the Spanish Civil War. The times were changing quickly and Buñuel could see that someone with his political and artistic sensibilities would have no place in a fascist Spain. He co-wrote and produced a documentary short about the changing political climes in Spain España 1936.

United States

In exile after the Spanish Civil War, Buñuel settled in Hollywood to capitalize on the short-lived fad of producing foreign-language versions of American films for sales abroad. After Buñuel worked on a few Spanish-language remakes, the industry eventually turned to the dubbing of dialogue. He then left Hollywood for New York, getting a job at the Museum of Modern Art from Iris Barry, where he put together compilation films, and edited a shorter version of Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda film glorifying Hitler, Triumph of the Will (1934).

In his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942), Dalí suggested that he had split with Buñuel because the latter was a Communist and an atheist. Buñuel was fired (or resigned) from MOMA, supposedly after Cardinal Spellman of New York went to see Iris Barry, head of the film department at MOMA. Buñuel then went back to Hollywood where he worked in the dubbing department of Warner Brothers from 1942 to 1946.

  • In his 1982 autobiography Mon Dernier soupir (English translation My Last Sigh published 1983), Buñuel wrote that he submitted a treatment to Warners about a disembodied hand which was later adapted (without his consent and without paying him royalties) into The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) with Peter Lorre. Buñuel also wrote that, over the years, he rejected Dalí's attempts at reconciliation.

In 1972, Buñuel, along with his screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and producer Serge Silberman, was invited by George Cukor to his house. This gathering was particularly memorable and other invitees included Alfred Hitchcock, Rouben Mamoulian, Robert Mulligan, George Stevens, Billy Wilder, Robert Wise and William Wyler.[2]

Mexican Period

Buñuel arrived in Mexico in 1946 and acquired Mexican citizenship in 1949; he relinquished his Spanish passport as it was not possible to have dual citizenship then. The first film he directed there was Gran Casino (1946), produced by Oscar Dancigers. Buñuel found the plot boring and it was not hugely successful. He later again collaborated with Dancigers in creating El Gran Calavera (1949), a successful film starring Fernando Soler. As Buñuel himself has stated, he learned the techniques of directing and editing while shooting El Gran Calavera. Its success at the box office encouraged Dancigers to accept the production of a more ambitious film for which Buñuel, apart from writing the script, had complete freedom to direct. The result was his critically acclaimed Los Olvidados (1950), which was recently considered by UNESCO as part of the world's cultural heritage. Los Olvidados (and its triumph at Cannes) made Buñuel an instant world celebrity and the most important Spanish-speaking film director in the world.

Buñuel remained in Mexico for the rest of his life, although he spent periods of time filming in France. In Mexico, he filmed 20 films, including:

Second French Period

After the golden age of the Mexican film industry ended, Buñuel started to work in France along with Silberman and Carrière. During this "French Period", Buñuel directed some of his best-known works: Le Journal d'une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid), free adaptation of the famous Octave Mirbeau's novel Le journal d'une femme de chambre; Belle de Jour; Cet obscur objet du désir (That Obscure Object of Desire); and Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie)—as well as some lesser-known films such as The Phantom of Liberty and La Voie lactée (The Milky Way).

Retrospect

After the release of Cet obscur objet du désir (1977) he retired from film making, and wrote (with Carrière) an autobiography, Mon Dernier Soupir (My Last Sigh), published in 1982, which provides an account of Buñuel's life, friends, and family as well as a representation of his eccentric personality. In it he recounts dreams, encounters with many well known writers, actors, and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, and antics such as dressing up as a nun and walking around town. As one might deduce from these antics, Buñuel was famous for his atheism. In a 1960 interview with Michele Manceaux in L'Express, Buñuel famously declared: "I am still, thank God, an atheist."

Buñuel repudiated this statement in a 1977 article in The New Yorker. "I'm not a Christian, but I'm not an atheist, either", he said. "I'm weary of hearing that accidental old aphorism of mine, 'I'm an atheist, thank God.' It's outworn. Dead leaves. In 1951, I made a small film called Mexican Bus Ride, about a village too poor to support a church and a priest. The place was serene, because no one suffered from guilt. It's guilt we must escape from, not God."

Buñuel died in Mexico City in 1983.

Influences

Surrealism

Buñuel's films were famous for their surreal imagery; they include scenes in which chickens populate nightmares, women grow beards, and aspiring saints are desired by luscious women. Even in the many movies he made for hire (rather than for his own creative reasons), such as Susana and The Great Madcap, he usually added his trademark of disturbing and surreal images. Running through his own films is a backbone of surrealism; Buñuel's world is one in which an entire dinner party suddenly finds itself inexplicably unable to leave the room and go home, a bad dream hands a man a letter which he brings to the doctor the next day, and where the devil, if unable to tempt a saint with a pretty girl, will fly him to a disco. An example of a more Dada influence can be found in Cet obscur objet du désir, when Mathieu closes his eyes and has his valet spin him around and direct him to a map on the wall.

Buñuel never explained or promoted his work. On one occasion, when his son was interviewed about The Exterminating Angel, Buñuel instructed him to give facetious answers; for example, when asked about the presence of a bear in the socialites' house, Buñuel fils claimed it was because his father liked bears. Similarly, the several repeated scenes in the film were explained as having been put there to increase the running time.

Religion

Many of his films were openly critical of middle class morals and organized religion, mocking the Roman Catholic Church in particular but religion in general, for hypocrisy. Many of his most famous films demonstrate this:

  • Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929) – A man drags pianos, upon which are piled two dead donkeys, two priests, and the tablets of The Ten Commandments.
  • L'Âge d'or (The Golden Age, 1930) – A bishop is thrown out a window, and in the final scene one of the culprits of the 120 days of Sodom is portrayed by an actor dressed in a way that he would be recognized as Jesus.
  • Ensayo de un crimen (The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz, 1955) – A man dreams of murdering his wife while she's praying in bed dressed all in white.
  • Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert, 1965) – The devil tempts a saint by taking the form of a bare-breasted girl singing and showing off her legs. At the end of the film, the saint abandons his ascetic life to hang out in a jazz club.
  • Nazarin (1959) – The pious lead character wreaks ruin through his attempts at charity.
  • Viridiana (1961) – A well-meaning young nun tries unsuccessfully to help the poor. Also there is a scene in the film as The Last Supper (reminiscent of the Leonardo Da Vinci fresco).
  • La Voie Lactée (1969) – Two men travel the ancient pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela and meet embodiments of various heresies along the way. One dreams of anarchists shooting the Pope.
  • El Gran Calavera (1949); The final scenes of the wedding, the priest continuously remind the bride of her obligations under marriage and then the movie changes and the bride runs chasing her true love.
  • El ángel exterminador (1962); The final scene is of sheep entering a church, mirroring the entrance of the parishioners.

The story of the making of Viridiana is illustrative. Buñuel's earlier Spanish and French films from the 1930s were regarded as cinema landmarks: Un Chien Andalou, L'Âge d'or, and Las Hurdes (also known as Tierra sin Pan or Land Without Bread) (1933). The advent of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, however, caused the expatriation of many artists and intellectuals from the fascist dictatorship of Franco, whose military revolt and rise to power had had the strong backing of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy.

Had Buñuel stayed in Spain, his fate might have been the same as that of his friend, poet Federico García Lorca, who was assassinated at the outset of Franco's military revolt. After some years of artistic silence forced by the difficult circumstances of his expatriation, Buñuel, then residing in Mexico, returned in full force to writing and directing with some of his best films, which once more won him international acclaim.

In 1960, for political propaganda reasons, Franco instructed his minister of culture to invite the country's most famous filmmaker to return to Spain to direct a film of his choice. Buñuel accepted and proceeded to make Viridiana produced by Mexican film tycoon Gustavo Alatriste and starring Mexican actress Silvia Pinal. He left Spain as soon as he finished the film, but left a few official copies. After viewing them, the copies were burned by the dictator's authorities. The minister of culture was reprimanded for having passed the screenplay in the first place. A copy of Viridiana, however, had been smuggled to France, where it proceeded to win the Palme D'Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. The film was banned in Spain, but got international attention and praise (with some exceptions). The Vatican's official newspaper, l'Osservatore Romano, published an article calling Viridiana an insult not only to Catholicism, but to Christianity itself.

Technique

Buñuel's style of directing was extremely economical. He shot films in a few weeks, never deviating from his script and shooting in order as much as possible to minimize editing time. He told actors as little as possible, and limited his directions mostly to physical movements ("move to the right", "walk down the hall and go through that door", etc.). He often refused to answer actors' questions and was known to simply turn off his hearing aid on the set; though they found it difficult at the time, many actors who worked with him acknowledged later that his approach made for fresh and excellent performances.

Buñuel preferred scenes which could simply be pieced together end-to-end in the editing room, resulting in long, mobile, wide shots which followed the action of the scene. Examples are especially present in his French films. For example, at the restaurant / ski resort in Belle de jour, Séverin, Pierre, and Henri are conversing at a table. Buñuel cuts away from their conversation to two young women who walk down a few steps and proceed through the restaurant, passing behind Séverin, Pierre, and Henri, at which point the camera stops and the young women walk out of frame. Henri then comments on the women and the conversation at the table progresses from there.

Buñuel disliked non-diegetic music and avoided its use, though traditional drums from Calanda sound in most of his films. The films of his French era were not scored and some (Belle de jour, Diary of a Chambermaid) are without music entirely. Belle de jour does, however, feature (potentially) non-diegetic sound effects, believed by some to be clues as to whether or not the current scene is a dream.

Quotations


  • Everyone is free to find in my films anything he likes or whatever is useful to him.
  • I observed things that moved me and I wanted to transpose those things on to the screen—but to do so with love I have for the instinctive and the irrational that can reveal itself in anything and everything. I've always been drawn toward the strange and the unknown.
  • I loathe films that make the poor romantic and sweet.

Pop culture references

In 2009, the indie folk band Califone recorded a biographical song about Buñuel for their album All My Friends Are Funeral Singers.

Awards and nominations

Luis Buñuel was given the Career Golden Lion in 1982 by the Venice Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize - Honorable Mention in 1969 by the Berlin Film Festival.

Tributes


  • Luis Buñuel stands with Eisenstein, Chaplin, Renoir, Dovzhenko, Mizoguchi and Fellini as one of the greatest directors ever to work in cinema. -- Joan Mellen
  • The cinema's prophets are few and lonely; none more formidable than the Spaniard, Buñuel. -- Tony Richardson
  • Buñuel is a cheerful pessimist, not given to despair, but he has a sceptical mind...Like the writers of the eighteenth century, Buñuel teaches us how to doubt... -- Francois Truffaut
  • Buñuel is one of those figures in world cinema who is always going to be in world cinema. -- Carlos Saura
  • They call Buñuel everything: traitor, anarchist, pervert, defamer, iconoclast. But lunatic they do not call him. It is true, it is lunacy he portrays, but it is not his lunacy...this is the lunacy of civilization, the record of man's achievement after ten thousand years of refinement. -- Henry Miller
  • He has grappled with the most significant problems of his milieu and age valiantly and constantly...Buñuel, the uncompromising, truthful. -- Ritwik Ghatak

Filmography

Original title English title Year Production country Language Length Notes
Un chien andalou An Andalusian Dog 1929 France French 16 min Written by Buñuel and Salvador Dalí
L'Âge d'or The Golden Age 1930 France French 60 min Written by Buñuel and Salvador Dalí
Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan Land Without Bread 1933 Spain French 30 min Documentary/mockumentary.
Gran Casino Magnificent Casino 1947 Mexico Spanish 92 min
El Gran Calavera The Great Madcap 1949 Mexico Spanish 92 min
Los olvidados The Forgotten 1950 Mexico Spanish 85 min
Susana The Devil and the Flesh 1951 Mexico Spanish 86 min
La hija del engaño The Daughter of Deceit 1951 Mexico Spanish 78 min
Subida al cielo Ascent to Heaven (Mexican Bus Ride) 1952 Mexico Spanish 85 min
Una mujer sin amor A Woman Without Love 1952 Mexico Spanish 85 min
El bruto The Brute 1953 Mexico Spanish 81 min
Él This Strange Passion aka Torments 1953 Mexico Spanish 92 min
La ilusión viaja en tranvía Illusion Travels by Streetcar 1954 Mexico Spanish 82 min
Abismos de pasión aka Cumbres Borrascosas Wuthering Heights 1954 Mexico Spanish 91 min
Robinson Crusoe 1954 Mexico English 90 min
Ensayo de un crimen Rehearsal for a Crime aka The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz 1955 Mexico Spanish 89 min
El río y la muerte The River and the Death 1955 Mexico Spanish 91 min
Cela s'appelle l'aurore That is the Dawn 1956 Italy/France French 102 min
La mort en ce jardin Death in the Garden 1956 France/Mexico French 104 min
Nazarín 1959 Mexico Spanish 94 min
La fièvre monte à El Pao Fever Rises in El Pao aka Republic of Sin 1959 France/Mexico French 109 min
The Young One 1960 Mexico/USA English 96 min
Viridiana 1961 Mexico/Spain Spanish 90 min
El ángel exterminador The Exterminating Angel 1962 Mexico Spanish 95 min
Le journal d'une femme de chambre The Diary of a Chambermaid 1964 France/Italy French 98 min
Simón del desierto Simon of the Desert 1965 Mexico Spanish 45 min
Belle de jour 1967 France/Italy French 101 min
La Voie Lactée The Milky Way 1969 France/Italy French 105 min
Tristana 1970 France/Italy/Spain Spanish 105 min
Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie 1972 France/Italy/Spain French 102 min
Le fantôme de la liberté The Phantom of Liberty 1974 Italy/France French 104 min
Cet obscur objet du désir That Obscure Object of Desire 1977 France/Spain French 105 min

See also

References

Bibliography

  • Bunuel Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)
  • Buñuel biography
  • Luis Buñuel, Mi Ultimo Suspiro (English translation My Last Sigh Alfred A. Knopf, 1983)
  • Froylan Enciso, "En defensa del poeta Buñuel", en Andar fronteras. El servicio diplomático de Octavio Paz en Francia (1946–1951), Siglo XXI, 2008, pp. 130–134 y 353-357.
  • Michael Koller "Un Chien Andalou", Senses of Cinema January 2001 Retrieved on 26 July 2006.
  • Ignacio Javier López, The Old Age of William Tell: A Study of Buñuel's '"Tristana", MLN 116 (2001): 295–314.
  • Ignacio Javier López, "Film, Freud and Paranoia: Dalí and the Representation of Male Desire in An Andalusian Dog", "'Diacritics'" 31,2 (2003): 35-48.
  • Javier Espada y Elena Cervera, México fotografiado por Luis Buñuel.
  • Javier Espada y Elena Cervera, Buñuel. Entre 2 Mundos.
  • Javier Espada y Asier Mensuro, Album fotografico de la familia Buñuel.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Luis Buñuel (1900-02-221983-07-29) was a Spanish film director.

Contents

Sourced

My Last Sigh

  • God and Country are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed.
  • Thank God I'm an atheist.
  • Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese.
  • Frankly, despite my horror of the press, I'd love to rise from the grave every ten years or so and go buy a few newspapers.
  • If someone were to prove to me- right this minute- that God, in all his luminousness, exists, it wouldn't change a single aspect of my behavior.
  • If you were to ask me if I'd ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I'd have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead.
  • In the name of Hippocrates, doctors have invented the most exquisite form of torture ever known to man: survival.
  • Salvador Dali seduced many ladies, particularly American ladies, but these seductions usually consisted of stripping them naked in his apartment, frying a couple of eggs, putting them on the woman's shoulders and, without a word, showing them the door.
  • Like the majority of deaf people, I don't like blind people much.
  • I like go to bed and get up soon, in that one I'm antispanish.
  • A paranoiac is like a poet, born, not made. (Un paranoico como un poeta, nace, no se hace)
  • The story is also a sequence of moral and surrealist aesthetic. The sexual instinct and the sense of death form its substance. (The golden age)
  • Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other twenty-two in dreams

Unsourced

  • Fed up with symmetry.

External links

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