The father of cinematic Surrealism and one of the most original directors in the history of the film medium, Luis Buñuel was given a strict Jesuit education (which sowed the seeds of his obsession with both religion and subversive behavior), and subsequently moved to Madrid to study at the university there, where his close friends included Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca.
After moving to Paris, Buñuel did a variety of film-related odd jobs in Paris, including working as an assistant to director Jean Epstein. With financial assistance from his mother and creative assistance from Dalí, he made his first film, the 17-minute Un Chien Andalou (1929), in 1929, and immediately catapulted himself into film history thanks to its shocking imagery (much of which - like the sliced eyeball at the beginning - still packs a punch even today). It made a deep impression on the Surrealist Group, who welcomed Buñuel into their ranks.
The following year, sponsored by wealthy art patrons, he made his first feature, the scabrous witty and violent L'Age d'Or (1930), which mercilessly attacked the church and the middle classes, themes that would preoccupy Buñuel for the rest of his career. That career, though, seemed almost over by the mid-1930s, as he found work increasingly hard to come by and after the Spanish Civil War he emigrated to the US where he worked for the Museum of Modern Art and as a film dubber for Warner Bros.
Moving to Mexico in the late 1940s, he teamed up with producer Óscar Dancigers and after a couple of unmemorable efforts shot back to international attention with the lacerating study of Mexican street urchins in Los Olvidados (1950), winning him the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival.
But despite this new-found acclaim, Buñuel spent much of the next decade working on a variety of ultra-low-budget films, few of which made much impact outside Spanish-speaking countries (though many of them are well worth seeking out). But in 1961, General Franco, anxious to be seen to be supporting Spanish culture invited Buñuel back to his native country - and Bunuel promptly bit the hand that fed him by making Viridiana (1961), which was banned in Spain on the grounds of blasphemy, though it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
This inaugurated Buñuel's last great period when, in collaboration with producer Serge Silberman and writer Jean-Claude Carrière he made seven extraordinary late masterpieces, starting with Diary of a Chambermaid (1964). Although far glossier and more expensive, and often featuring major stars such as Jeanne Moreau and Catherine Deneuve, the films showed that even in old age Buñuel had lost none of his youthful vigour.
After saying that every one of his films from Belle de Jour (1967) onwards would be his last, he finally kept his promise with That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), after which he wrote a memorable (if factually dubious) autobiography, in which he said he'd be happy to burn all the prints of all his films - a classic Surrealist gesture if ever there was one.
|Jeanne Buñuel||(1925 - 29 July 1983) (his death)|
His films often include an animal in a scene, where they seem out of place
Satirizies or outright attacks bourgeois lifestyles
Shocking subject matter
Mockery or wholesale attacks upon religion, especially Catholicism
Became a Mexican citizen in 1948.
Worked as chief editor and chief of the writer department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1939-1943)
Father of film-maker Rafael Buñuel.
Father of Juan Luis Buñuel
Liked to daydream, and his imaginations were frequently to play tricks to his friends and, in Mexico, one of his favorite "victims" was the Spanish screenwriter Luis Alcoriza. During a hunting party, Alcoriza saw an eaglet on a tree and knocked it down with the first shot but then he found a price tag on a paw: it was a stuffed bird put there by Buñuel.
Was voted the 14th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890-1945". Pages 71-92. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.
Praised by Alfred Hitchcock as the best director ever.
Was father-in-law of filmmaker Joyce Buñuel.
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1954
30 Film retrospective on the Berlinale in 2008.
He was fluent in Spanish and French but never learned to speak English.
In the 5th edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (edited by Steven Jay Schneider), 9 of his films are listed: Un Chien Andalou (1929), L'Age d'Or (1930), Land Without Bread (1933), Los Olvidados (1950), The Young One (1960), Viridiana (1961), Belle de Jour (1967), Tristana (1970) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972).
I have a soft spot for secret passageways, bookshelves that open into silence, staircases that go down into a void, and hidden safes. I even have one myself, but I won't tell you where. At the other end of the spectrum are statistics which I hate with all my heart.
[When asked why he made movies] To show that this is not the best of all possible worlds.
I've always found insects exciting.
Nothing would disgust me more morally than winning an Oscar.
Thank God, I'm an atheist.
Sex without religion is like cooking an egg without salt. Sin gives more chances to desire.
I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life.
All my life I've been harassed by questions: Why is something this way and not another? How do you account for that? This rage to understand, to fill in the blanks, only makes life more banal. If we could only find the courage to leave our destiny to chance, to accept the fundamental mystery of our lives, then we might be closer to the sort of happiness that comes with innocence.
You have to begin to lose your memory, if only in bits and pieces, to realize that memory is what makes our lives. Life without memory is no life at all, just as an intelligence without the possibility of expression is not really an intelligence. Our memory is our coherence, our reason, our feeling, even our action. Without it, we are nothing.
The bar . . . is an exercise in solitude. Above all else, it must be quiet, dark, very comfortable - and, contrary to modern mores, no music of any kind, no matter how faint. In sum, there should be no more than a dozen tables, and a client that doesn't like to talk.
Salvador Dalí 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.
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.
'God and Country' are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed.
Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other twenty-two in dreams.
Tobacco and alcohol, delicious fathers of abiding friendships and fertile reveries.
A paranoiac, like a poet, is born, not made.
Fortunately, somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether.
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.
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.
To compare me with Goya is a nonsense. Critics speak of Goya because they don't know anything about Quevedo, Theresa of Avila, the picaresque literature, Galdòs, [Ramón del Valle-Inclán] and others . . . Today's culture is unfortunately inseparable from economic and military power. A ruling nation can impose its culture and give a worldwide fame to a second-rate writer like [Ernest Hemingway]. [John Steinbeck] is important due to American guns. Had [John Dos Passos] and [William Faulkner] been born in Paraguay or in Turkey, who'd read them?
I love dreams, even when they're nightmares, which is usually the case. My dreams are full of the same obstacles, but it doesn't matter. My amour fou for the dreams themselves as I shared with the surrealists. Un Chien Andalou (1929) was born of the encounter between my dreams and [Salvador Dalí]'s. Later, I brought the dreams directly into my films, trying as hard as I could to avoid any analysis. 'Don't worry if the movie's too short', I once told a Mexican producer. 'I'll just put in a dream.' He was not impressed.
The films that influenced me the most, however, were Fritz Lang's. When I saw Destiny (1921), I suddenly knew that I too wanted to make movies. It wasn't the three stories themselves that moved moved me so much, but the main episode--the arrival of the man in the black hat, whom I instantly recognized as Death, in a Flemish village, and the scene in the cemetery. Something about this film spoke to something deep in me; it clarified my life and my vision of the world. This feeling occurred whenever I saw a Lang movie, particular the 'Nibelungen' movies, and Metropolis (1927).
Don't ask me my opinions on art, because I don't have any. Aesthetic concerns have played a relatively minor role in my life, and I have to smile when a critic talks, for example, of my "palette". I find it impossible to spend hours in galleries analyzing and gesticulating. Where [Pablo Picasso]'s concerned, his legendary facility is obvious, but sometimes I'm repelled by it. I can't stand "Guernica", which I nonetheless helped to hang. Everything about it makes me uncomfortable--the grandiloquent technique as well as the way it politicizes art. Both Alberti and [José Bergamín] share my aversion; in fact, all three of us would be delighted to blow up the painting, but I suppose we're too old to start playing with explosives.
Age is something that doesn't matter, unless you are a cheese.
J'aime la solitude, à condition qu'un ami vienne m'en parler de temps en temps. (I like solitude, as long as someone drops by to chat about it from time to time.)
On A Clockwork Orange: A Clockwork Orange is my current favorite. I was very predisposed against the film. After seeing it, I realize it is the only movie about what the modern world really means.
A writer of a painter cannot change the world. But they can keep an essential margin of nonconformity alive.
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