The best-known Spanish filmmaker before Pedro Almodovar, Luis Bunuel had a film career that spanned fifty years and involved work in three national cinemas, those of Spain, France, and Mexico. Ironically, of the thirty-one films he made, only four of them were shot in his native Spain. Along with persistent attacks on Christian dogma and church hypocrisy, Buiiuel's most characteristic theme is a contemptuous view of bourgeois morality and middle-class values. His Mexican period, beginning in 1946, includes some of his most internationally acclaimed films: Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned, 1950), El (This Strange Passion, 1952), and Nazartn (1959). Though varying in style and subject matter, these works parody bourgeois morality and contain powerful and violent imagery.
His years at the famed Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid in the early 1920s brought Bunuel into contact with the poet Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) and the painter Salvador Dali (1904-1989), with whom he collaborated on his first two films, forging his identity as a surrealist. In Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929) and LAge d'or (The Golden Age, 1930), his two surrealist masterpieces made in collaboration with Dali, he developed a series of violent images that were designed to shock his audience and played with editing techniques to disrupt visual continuity. Even while working on the documentary Tierra sin pan (Land Without Bread, 1933), his first film shot in Spain, he intensified the shocking images of people from backward rural communities by juxtaposing grotesque images with the tranquil strains of a Brahms symphony. The notoriety of these early films led some critics to read surrealist touches in his later works, especially his popular Mexican commercial films, most of which were largely divorced from surrealism.
His support of the defeated Spanish Republican government during the civil war (1936-1939) forced Buiiuel into political exile. After twenty-five years spent forging a commercial career in Mexico, he returned to
Spain in 1960 to film Viridiana (1961). The film, approved by strict Spanish censors, appeared to be a parable about Christian charity recounting the efforts of a young woman to be a good Christian. Viridiana won a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival but was immediately denounced by the Vatican as blasphemous. The Spanish government, which rightly saw that it had been ridiculed by the clever filmmaker, responded by banning the film in Spain, and even mention of Buiiuel's name was prohibited in the Spanish press.
After Simon del desierto (Simon of the Desert, 1965), and with the exception of two films shot in Spain— Tristana (1970) and Cet Obscur objet du desir (That Obscure Object of Desire, 1977)—all of Bufiuel's later films would be shot in France. In his mature final period, Belle de jour (1967), starring Catherine Deneuve, won international acclaim, and Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie ( The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, 1972) won an Oscar® for best foreign film.
Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929), L'Age d'or (The Golden Age, 1930), Tierra sin pan (Land Without Bread, 1933), Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned, 1950), El (This Strange Passion, 1952), Viridiana (1961), Belle de jour (1967), Tristana (1970), Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, 1972)
Aranda, José Francisco. Luis Bunuel: A Critical Biography.
New York: Da Capo, 1985. Baxter, John. Bunuel. London: Fourth Estate, 1994. Evans, Peter. The Films of Luis Bunuel: Subjectivity and Desire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
--, ed. Luis Bunuel: New Readings. London: British Film
Institute, 2004. Mellen, Joan, ed. The World of Luis Bunuel: Essays in Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.
Triana (Carmen, the Girl from Triana, 1938) and Perojo's Suspiros de Espana (Sighs of Spain, 1939), were shot even as the war raged.
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