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we haven't gotten very far at all
jogrant22 January 2005
This film portrays the abysmal differences between people with different educations and senses of morality. At the same time, it is a commentary on the hopelessness of a society where no one understands why the status quo should be tampered with. No summary could really do this film justice since the visual impressions and symbols are just as important as the express message portrayed by the events.

But here goes: A novice is forced by circumstances to leave her convent and visit her uncle, falling under the influence of her world wise cousin. She tries to maintain her ideals by doing good works but is taken advantage of and despised by the very people she means to help.

Viridiana was the first film Buñuel filmed from exile and (so the story goes) the church was in an uproar and adamant that it be censored. Perhaps this is because none of the characters seem to give a fig about the teachings of the church except for the novice. Perhaps it is because one of the messages that seems clear is that the church is ineffectual in its efforts to improve the human condition. However, the depth of the story speaks more to the social condition in general -similar in all of Europe at the time- and the church was merely a part of that.

It is possible that a superficial viewing might interpret the characters to represent specific political factions from the era when the film was made but I believe that is an error. Even Franco, if we are to believe what we are told today, didn't personally see anything wrong with the film when he saw it and his order that all copies be destroyed was given in the interest of appeasing the church. People who appreciate quality film will be grateful that at least one copy survived the mass destruction by being sent to France.
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Buñuels superb, subversive denial of religious ethics
braugen23 April 2003
Few film directors have worked with the sheer power and subversiveness that Spanish-born Luis Buñuel have. "Viridiana" is one of the best examples of the exiled Spaniard's feelings towards religious faith and its virtues- or his strong denial of religion as a virtue.

Buñuel started out as a Surrealist, and although he left the Surrealist Circle of Paris lead by André Breton, he always kept elements of Surrealism in his work, to the bitter end. So too in "Viridiana", where dreams play a small, but important part of the narrative, dreams being the Surrealists' main theme as a way of discovering repressed sexuality and aggression. Viridiana is a young nun who is, on the grounds of showing human compassion, talked into visiting her uncle Don Jaime, who is ill. Don Jaime, played by Buñuel regular Fernando Rey, is caring, but perverse. He falls in love with his niece, and does everything with the help of his maid, to keep Viridiana from parting to the convent, including lying to her and seducing her while she is trainquilized.

I am not going to give away all the events of the film, but the corruption of humanity and Christianity are soon evident, as Viridiana tries to help poor beggars and give them a worthy life. Her attempts at Christian charity are only met with self-pity and egocentricity, as the beggars go on a rampage reminiscient of the last supper of Jesus christ and his disciples. Violence, murder, gluttony and rape are all included to make a clear picture of the way the beggars have lost their human virtues to the hardship of poverty. We see the events through Viridiana's eyes, and everything she goes through suggests a broken belief in the goodness of both human beings and the faith she kept for so long.

A masterpiece in revolutionary cinema, this film won the Palm d' Or at Cannes in 1961, and the Spanish Board of Film were all fired afterwards, as Franco's regime could not quite swallow that "Viridiana" was the official Spanish contribution to the Festival.
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MisterWhiplash19 February 2007
Viridiana may be one of the least surreal films in Luis Bunuel's career, more than likely, but it has perhaps the most acidic satire in any of his 1960s work. It's a film that, actually, might be a good portal into the director's work for those who haven't seen much or any of his work (though one could always vouch for Discreet Charm or Un Chien Andalou first). It's actually got a very straightforward narrative without too many punches pulled in delving into the characters' psyches. We're given the compassionate, caring, but also very mixed-up Viridiana, played by Silvia Pinal, beautiful and kind, but in her ultra-Catholic character is someone who cannot be tempted in the least. She is, one would suppose, the most conventional character, and we're just supposed to take for granted, in Bunuelian style, that she's just like this way. No bother- this is a masterpiece of ensemble anyway, and an ensemble practically all non-professionals (it almost seems like Bunuel picked some of them from the same village that provided Las Hurdes). It's bitter and depressing in its view of humanity, but it's expertly crafted all the way, and it builds towards a tremendous climax.

For a while it seems like something very peculiar is going on with Viridiana and her uncle (Fernando Rey, in only a supporting role but one of his very best performances), when he invites her to stay at his home but won't let here leave due to his infatuation with her. Indeed, we see- in one of the funniest bits early on- that he even tries her shoes on, and attempts to have his way with her when drugged. But Bunuel's film, for the most part, isn't necessarily as hilarious in its satire as in his other classics. Actually, it's really more of a dramatic effort here, which is all the more fascinating to me: Bunuel can pull off making what seems, at least for 2/3 of the film, to be a sincere look at how a woman makes an attempt to overcome a tragedy in her family (Rey's character's end) by taking in vagrants and homeless folk and cripples, while her 'cousin' takes over the bourgeois duties. On this level, Bunuel, and his screenwriters, have a fantastic control over the mood of scenes, and then spiking with little visual details things that just strike his fancy (i.e. in the attic with the cat and the rat, or the teats on the cow, or the crown of thorns).

...BUT, then there's a day when Viridiana has to go into town, and those she took in take over the joint, so to speak, and it makes the nighttime party scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest look tame by comparison. This is where finally, as if in a rush of clarity, Bunuel unleashes the fury of his satire, as one sees what the kindness and support that Viridiana tried to do- if not out of the genuine goodness of her heart then as just a way to clear her religiously guilty mind-set over Rey's Uncle- completely, reprehensibly backfires. At this point one sees Bunuel at his naughtiest, most crude, and still as is a given with him, playful (one of the greatest moments in the filmmaker's career comes when he deliberately sets up the Last Supper for the bums). Then, finally, one sees a very cruel and almost dehumanizing catharsis, but maybe it's not really at the same time. There is a powerful message working through much of the picture, where religion, class, attitudes are all tested in the sense of restrictions: how far is too far with temptation and free will? For Bunuel, it can be anything, which is why the outcome of Viridiana taking in the homeless and destitute becomes her psychological downfall (see her hair let down towards the end, and her blank, drained face at the card table).

And yet, all through the symbolism that seems ambiguous (girl jumping rope) and very direct (burning of crown of thorns), and with the scathing mix of sordid drama and black-as-a-bull comedy, Bunuel never loses sight of his vision, and Viridiana is a constantly watchable effort with his gracious, intuitive camera, and his sharp ear for the truth in every character's dialog. Frustrating at times, you bet, and its sensibilities on human nature, and the decisions made, make one re-think what it is to be either rich, poor, or in the middle. But it's also one of the director's best films, and a very deserved Golden Palm winner.
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Misery, poverty, (bad) religion... Buñuel's tribute to Franco's work.
Henry Fields14 September 2005
"Viridiana" and "Tierra Sin Pan" (a documentary) are two of the most cutting portraits of Spanish misery and poverty in the 20 that passed after 1936's Civil War. Buñuel had no mercy and put everybody in their place.

The pious Viridiana (Silvia Pinal, wonderful!) who leaves the convent to come to live with his uncle in the country. His uncle (Fernando Rey, magnificent!), a man defeated by life who lives in the past and, finally, suicides. His cousin (Paco Rabal, the man!), which come to the country house looking for his inheritance. The tramps that Viridiana takes in... Some of the best characters in the history of cinema, and some of the best sequences ever filmed (that one with the tramps celebrating such a crazy party).

A fierce look against Spanish society, against religion and against the human condition itself. I'd pay for watching the face of dictator Franco's censors when they watched "Viridiana". They could have Buñuel shot for that. Luckily, he went to Mexico.

Well, this is a movie to talk about for hours and hours... Anyway, you just watch it and prepare to feel what cinema's about.

*My rate: 10/10
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Buñuel's case study on bourgeoisie plight and its underlining cause - having been conditioned to live under the influence of false and misconstrued religious beliefs
Murtaza Ali27 May 2011
Regardless of the inhibitions that it may engender, it's always a matter of great cachet and honor to review the work of a virtuoso like Luis Buñuel. Calling Buñuel merely a movie-maker would not only be an understatement but also an invidious remark. Buñuel was a pioneer in every sense of the word and his works avant garde and highly influential. He is regarded as the father of surrealism in cinema and his predilection for the morbid and the obscure had earned him the tag of a 'fetishist'. Buñuel's directorial debut, Un Chien Andalou, a prototypical work on Surrealism, is a living example of Buñuel's vision and imaginative genius as a movie-maker and more importantly as a student of cinema.

Buñuel was averse to explaining or promoting his work and ironically his surrealist works are so personal, distinctive and elaborative in style and manner that no one but Buñuel was worthy of judging or explaining them. Fortunately for me the first Buñuel movie that I have ventured to review does not deal with surrealism. Viridinia is a story of a young nun whose inexorable resolve for redemption ironically takes her to the brink of moral corruption. Viridinia revolves around bourgeois (middle class) modus vivendi and deals with controversial themes of gluttony, blasphemy and adultery which have been an integral part of Buñuelesque oeuvre. Buñuel was a staunch maverick and fittingly his iconoclastic works relentlessly flouted the bourgeois morals and the very root cause of bourgeoisie plight - the conservatism and hypocrisy camouflaged in the preaching of Catholicism and Christianity. Viridiana not only stands equal to the task of mocking organized religion and hypocrisies associated with it but just like other Buñuel works also manages to bring in a humanistic element with a somber yet sensual touch. The questions that Buñuel manages to pose through Viridiana are so straight and naked that even a saint of divine proportions, or a champion of human rights will not only look askance in want of candor but will also be forced to squeal in ghastly terror while trying to answer them. Such was the impact of Viridiana on the The Roman Catholic Church that the Vatican's official newspaper published an article calling Viridiana an insult to Catholicism and Christianity. The movie was banned in Spain and all its prints were destroyed as per the orders of the Spanish autocrat, Francisco Franco. These exaggerated responses were clearly not responsive of the subject material that Viridiana showcased but were the mere consequences of the questions it posed and the answers that it demanded.

Viridiana is a young nun on the verge of taking her final vows. She is asked by her Mother Superior to pay a visit to her estranged uncle, Don Jaime, who has repeatedly expressed his keenness to meet Viridiana. She remembers that her uncle was never there for her whenever she had needed his support. Despite the absence of an emotional urge, she decides to pay him a visit simply out of courtesy. Don Jamie is a recluse rotting in the abject solitude of widowhood, which is making him more vulnerable and desperate with each passing day. Upon meeting his nubile niece, he notices a striking resemblance to his deceased wife. This ray of hope reinvigorates a new sense of purpose in his life as he decides to put forth a marriage proposal in front of Viridiana. He implores her to wear his wife's wedding dress which she reluctantly obliges. When his maid, Ramona informs Viridiana of his intent to marry her, she is appalled, and Don Jaime appears to have dropped the idea. However, Ramona secretly drugs Viridiana drink and Don Jamie carries the unconscious Viridiana to her room with the intention of raping her, but falls short of doing the ignominious. The next morning, he bluffs that he has made her his, and hence she is no longer pure enough to return to the convent. Seeing her undeterred, he concedes the truth, but fails in convincing her fully. Viridiana immediately leaves for the convent but at the bus stop the authorities reveal her that Don Jamie has committed suicide and has left his entire property to her and his illegitimate son, Jorge. Deeply disturbed, Viridiana decides not to return to the convent. Instead, as an act of penance, she brings home an assemblage of beggars and devotes herself to the moral education and feeding of this underprivileged lot. The things become a bit more complicated on the arrival of Jorge who shows a strong inclination for Viridiana. What ensues is a series of amazingly bizarre yet poetic sequences which can best be cherished through viewing rather than description. The penultimate scene depicts the beggars posing for a photo sans camera around the table in which they seem to collectively resemble the figures in Da Vinci's Last Supper; a chair substitutes for the door which now cuts into the fresco, and removes Christ's feet. This scene, in particular, earned the film the Vatican's opprobrium. The controversial finale adds a completely different dimension to Viridiana elevating it to new levels of cognitive interpretation.

In a nutshell, Viridiana is a truly fascinating cinematic experience catapulted to new heights of magnificence by Buñuel's mastery and his unflinching ability to depict the sad and abysmal reality of living under the influence of false and misconstrued religious tenets. Viridiana along with The Diary of a Chamber Maid (1964) are great means of acquainting oneself with Buñuel's oeuvre and can serve as an excellent mock exercise to prepare oneself before exploring Buñuel's exceedingly challenging surrealistic works. 10/10
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Classic Brunuel.
Joseph P. Ulibas2 July 2004
Viridiana (1961) is a tale about a young nun who's so into her faith that she tries to do what she feels is morally and ethically right. Sadly, the world has changed and no matter how hard she tries to help those around her, it all winds up biting her in the end. Viridiana is a rare masterpiece that reflects the attitudes of the society that people (such as that "lovable" despot Franco) had created and the archaic teachings of the Catholic Church. The poor nun is one of the last of the true believers who adhere's to the dogma of the Church even when most of their leaders have abandoned it. Even the poor masses (whom she relies on) fail her. Can she remain true to her faith when everyone else around her ignores it?

A classic Brunuel film. I enjoy his style of film-making. Especially the way he uses social commentary and makes it entertaining instead of being preachy and hitting the viewers over the head with his "ideals". A hard film to find but it's highly enjoyable. The best scene in the film his the beggars re-enactment of the "Last Supper" painting. Film-making at it's best!

Highest recommendation.

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Buñuelesque Extravaganza
Keith F. Hatcher30 August 2001
Forty years on and `Viridiana' is one of the very few, almost unique, examples of classical Spanish cinema to have survived the turmoil of the latter half of the last century. It remains as a little light in the midst of the darkness of the Franco Régime, which promptly banned it, or as an insouciance to the Vatican, which promptly excomulgated everyone concerned with it.

Buñuel's genius is apparent in every frame: the eye for detail, nonetheless permitting that impromptu evanesqueness which lends exquisiteness to these memorable scenes, above which shines the `Last Supper'. And it is precisely this scene which gives one the impression that the real stars in the making of this film were the motley beggars taken in from the streets. Silvia Pinal and Francisco `Paco' Rabal are not outstanding in this piece; even the incomparable Fernando Rey is overshadowed by the band of social outcasts. The sheer poeticness so brilliantly captured by the camera roaming among the vagabonds is cinematographic exquisiteness carried to its extreme: every grimace, every wrinkled nose, the debauchery, is what makes the principal actors be no such thing, but secondary actors overwhelmed by the nuances and gestures of these `untouchables". Brilliant filming, indeed – whether intentional or not or whether this be only my personal interpretation after seeing this film three times in the last twenty five years, is of course open to debate.

Suffice just to mention Lola Gaos: (Tristana (1970) – also by Buñuel - is one of her other films worthy of mention, surprisingly accepted by the censor's blue pen). In the 70s her voice began to break up, such that in the end she lived out her last years in poverty, forgotten by the times and cinema makers, until hauled out of hiding for a last TV appearance, sardonic way of giving her a few pennies to eke out to the end of her existence, but by then (1989) her voice was so fragmented it was near impossible to understand her. Her throat-cancer was never treated adequately.

Luis Buñuel (`Thank God I am an atheist') has gone; Fernando Rey has gone; Paco Rabal died yesterday in an aeroplane flying over the English Channel, returning from the Montreal Film Festival where he received his last award…….

They leave `Viridiana' as testament to those historical and difficult times, an isolated exposé amid what was, for Spain, a cinematographical desert.
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Putting the Church on its Head
nycritic30 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
There will never be anyone like him. Since he shocked audiences with his extremely subversive Surrealist film L'AGE D'OR which showed a Christ-like figure emerging from 120 days of unimaginable debauchery in a remote castle looking oddly sensual and sexually free, he's gone hand in hand with poking fun at those who believe in God, in the Church, and the privileged.

Due to his personal, political and religious beliefs (he was a staunch atheist) he had been self-imposed to exile with the rise of Francisco Franco who from the mid-Thirties onward threw Spain into a period of repression and stagnant evolution, a situation common and typical of nations under a dictatorship. Bunuel's later success in the country who came to adopt him as one of its own -- Mexico -- brought Spain's eye focusing straight into Bunuel's and Franco decided that maybe Bunuel could be make a movie to his own liking. After all, Spain wasn't yet known for having a strong cinematic presence until then (despite the San Sebastian Film Festival) and it could use all the help it could get. Bunuel up until then was Spain's main exponent of intelligent cinema even in his "for hire" and "less controversial" movies from his Fifties period which at their most Neo-realist always had hints of his fondness for Surrealism.

Would it that Franco had an inkling of what Bunuel, one of the strongest, most stubborn personalities from the past century (whom I admire), had in store as the ultimate rabbit trick. Bunuel grudgingly returned to Spain under the advice (and financing) of Gustavo Alatriste and produced one of the most scathing attacks on Catholicism yet: the story of Sor Viridiana (the great Silvia Pinal, blond and detached in that Hitchcockian-blond way, making her debasement the more fun), the nun who is so devout you want to whack her in the head with a frying pan, who returns to her homestead where her uncle (Fernando Rey) lives and finds that she's up against some interesting opposition and a systematic stripping away at her own faith. First, with the assistance of his faithful but slightly amoral maid Ramona (Margarita Lozano) he decides to drug Viridiana and blackmail her into staying at his house after seeing how similar she looks to his deceased wife and perversely enjoying how she looks in his dead wife's wedding gown. While he stops short of raping her in her sleep, he isn't above telling her she can't leave because they've had sex. Viridiana, horrified, decides to leave even when he tells her he lied. Of course, in typical Bunuel style, he interrupts her attempt at escape, kills off the uncle, and has her return to the house.

An action interrupted has always been present in Bunuel's work. In THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE it's the simple act of eating and socializing. In THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE and BELLE DE JOUR, it's intimacy with a loved one. Here, it's not only the return to the safety of religion but altruism as well. Viridiana, now the mistress of the house, has to share it with her cousin Jorge (Francisco Rabal), a man serving as Bunuel's doppelganger as a pragmatic man who believes only hard work will pull the country out of the muck it's in. She takes in the homeless, the disabled, and the poor, giving them food and places to sleep and their daily prayers. Jorge has other plans. In a wicked sequence Viridiana gathers the homeless into prayer as workers steadfastly go around their duties. Bunuel cuts from her glowing, blissful face to the dirty activity around the construction. It's almost as if Bunuel were saying, "It's not us interrupting your prayers -- you're the ones who aren't doing anything. You're in the way of our daily work." Parallel to this, a poignant scene where Jorge shows his humanity towards a dog who is walking under a cart, tied, which he rescues from its fate. Watch as, not a minute after he's purchased the dog from its cruel owners, another cart trudges by, with a dog tied to its underbelly. The cycle of casual cruelty won't stop.

The taking in of the beggars proves to be Viridiana's undoing. While she and the entire household are out, the beggars take control of the house, set up a mock dinner party that spins out of control, which Bunuel films as a reverse Last Supper with the ultimate act of sabotage thrown at it as a woman lifts up her skirt to the camera. While regaining control of the house won't be an easy task -- Viridiana is nearly raped (again) but saved by Jorge who is able to manipulate one of the homeless men into releasing him -- it's clear that Viridiana's actions, coming from a misguided good place, have almost destroyed a generation's worth of tradition in the form of a household. Because Jorge is the character who emerges as the strongest with his knowledge of how to run an estate, he represents the future of Spain, and in having Jorge, Viridiana, and Ramona (faithful to the end) wind up playing cards in an intellectual threesome, the movie hits its mark in effectively killing religion in favor of the practical matters, further seen when a little girl without knowing burns the cross of thorns Viridiana used when she would go into her excruciating prayers as a nun.

A brilliant movie, possibly one of the most significant of last century, one that smeared Spain's upper class society as it did the Church, and the one that got denounced by the Vatican (as if that would matter).
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A saint is a nuisance to live with at home.
dbdumonteil3 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
"Viridiana" is a sequel to "Nazarin"(not meant pejoratively):both want to be saints,both are compelled to leave religion(Viridiana is raped by her uncle and cannot become a nun).Both will be laïc saints. So Viridiana takes on a bunch of beggars in her home,and tries to educate them by putting them to work.But it's too late,they are rotten to the core,and it's not long before they realize that working is pointless when you have a nice lady to take care of you. In direct contrast to Viridiana,we have her cousin:he's a realist man.For him,Viridiana's charity amounts to nothing.Bunuel proves this right with the memorable scene of the dog:what's the point of saving a poor dog when there are thousands of poor dogs in the world?Viridiana's cousin ,unlike her,does not renounce the pleasures of life and he takes good care of his desirable property. Bunuel reaches in this movie a paroxysm of violence ,satire and grand art.The beggars have a banquet,and Bunuel unleashes his anticlericalism: at the table,the mendicants stand still ,parodying Leonardo's the Last Supper.Then Viridiana is raped while a gramophone is playing ,screaming Hendel's Messiah. Like Nazarin who's got to come back to reality,and who is offered a pineapple (sexual symbol),Viridiana seems to agree to be part of a ménage à trois with her cousin and the servant as she begins to play cards with them. Needless to say,Spain censors were horrified and Bunuel would never make another film in his homeland.
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One of Bunuel's masterpieces.
Infofreak7 January 2002
Beautiful and devout Viridiana (Silvia Pinal in an impressive performance) is about to take her final vows as a nun, and enter a convent. At the urging of her Mother Superior she takes a short break to visit her estranged Uncle and benefactor Don Jaime (Bunuel regular, the always wonderful Fernando Rey). Reluctantly she does so thinking it will be the last time she sees him before devoting her life to God. Don Jaime, a complex man, has other plans for Viridiana - he wants to take her as his wife. What follows is unpredictable, fascinating and an almost perfect piece of film making. Highly controversial in its day, and accused of blasphemy, it may not be as shocking to our cynical, secular eyes, but it still packs a punch, and is highly recommended. One of Luis Bunuel's greatest achievements.
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A hymn to human nature
abc-277 May 2002
This is a great movie. It is an investigation of the human nature and attempts to tell an interesting story about the suppression of our inner instincts. Bunuel, once again, compares the morality that comes from inside us, i.e., the morality of the subconscious, against the morality which imposed by society and the various religious organizations.

Bunuel seems sacrilegious, but I think that his movie attacks false piety as opposed to the deeper mysteries of the Catholic faith. Viridiana in the movie is not considerate of her uncle's passion for her and that kills the old man. Her punishment comes later from the unworthy beggars. The moral of the story is that we'd better investigate our flaws and strengths before attempting any encounter with other members of the society. Nobody is perfect and there are different ways to help people out there effectively. Honest work is sometimes more effective than useless acts of charity. If we do not know our selves and we cannot understand others we may deeply hurt people we care for.

All these ideas came to my mind while watching "Viridiana". What a great movie it is. One of the great moments of the movie is a side by side viewing of the honest workers renovating the mansion and the unworthy beggars praying in the fields.
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Relentless criticism to ingratitude and selfishness realized by the maestro Buñuel
ma-cortes23 January 2010
This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking film initially banned in Spain and completely denounced by the Vatican . Although it was voted best Spanish film by professionals and critics in 1996 Spanish cinema centenary . It deals with the novice Angelic Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) who visits his uncle Jaime (Fernando Rey) in the mansion prior to taking her religious vows . Jaime is stunned by her remarkable resemblance to deceased spouse who passes away on their wedding night . Later on , there appears his nephew (Francisco Rabal). Meanwhile Viridiana attempts to help some local beggars .

This prohibited movie is widely considered a Luis Buñuel's masterpiece . It's a parable based on a Benito Perez Galdos' novel titled Halma concerning about a young nun full of illusions and kindness along with some tattered beggars . It is packed with some humor , hilarious situations , brooding drama , corruption and criticism to Catholic Church and useless altruism . The original ending of the film showed Viridiana knocking on her cousin's door, entering, and the door closing slowly behind her , this version was rejected by Spanish censors . After years of living in Mexico, Luis Buñuel was persuaded to make his first film in his native Spain since 1936 by the vanguard of young contemporary Spanish film-makers who admired his work . Buñuel returning his native country , Spain , by making 'Viridiana' but this film was prohibited on the grounds of blasphemy , then Buñuel with his screenwriter Julio Alejandro go back Mexico where realizes in low budget 'Simon of the desert' and also produced by Gustavo Alatriste . The script was initially approved by the Spanish authorities with a few minor changes. They had no opportunity to view the finished film until it played at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palme d'Or . Nevertheless they were sufficiently horrified by what they saw to ban the film. Splendid main cast gives superb acting as Fernando Rey , Francisco Rabal and Silvia Pinal as idealist ascetic ex-nun . Large secondary cast formed by ragged beggars as Lola Gaos , Jose Calvo , Jose Luis Martin , Joaquin Roa, and Maria Isbert ,daughter of the great Jose Isbert . It appears uncredited as a little girl Teresa Rabal , Francisco Rabal's daughter . Good and atmospheric cinematography by excellent cameraman Jose F. Aguayo . Religious and classic music score including ¨Haendel's Messiah¨ and the ethereal strains of Alelluya . The picture was originally realized by 'the maestro of Calanda' , Luis Buñuel's location of birth , and was immediately banned . Despite the government's massive efforts to confiscate all copies , some of them were exhibited and the movie won deservedly the Palme dÓr at the Cannes Film Festival . Nice strange story for Luis Buñuel aficionados , being hauled by some reviewers as one of his best films ever made . Rating : Above average, worthwhile watching.
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"That Obscure Object of Desire meets Nazarin"
Galina20 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The controversial satire was banned by the Spanish government for obscenity and blasphemy after it had received the Golden Palm at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival. Viridiana is a young nun (Mexican actress Silvia Penal) who is assigned by her mother superior to visit her widowed uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) on his farm just before taking her final vows. Viridiana reluctantly agrees to meet with her uncle whom she never knew but who has supported her financially all these years. Don Jaime is obsessed by her cool virginal blond beauty and he sees her as reincarnation of his bride who died thirty years ago on their wedding night. Jaime begs Viridaina to don her aunt's wedding dress after which he drugs her with the intention to corrupt her. What Don Jaime does, is unspeakable. He represents in the film the decadent old aristocracy but nothing is that simple and obvious in Bunuel's films. Bunuel gives some of his own sexual fantasies, fetishes, and dreams that he freely admits to Don Jaime thus making him more human. Viridiana winds up as a farm owner along with her uncle's illegitimate son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal, humble and spiritual Nazarin of "Nazarin" here plays absolutely different man). Viridiana, following the great traditions of mad Spaniards, originated by Cervantes and continued by Nazarin, takes seriously great ideas and tries to live accordingly when she attempts to make the farm a heaven for local homeless beggars. They pay her back for her kindness and care by throwing the wild party inside the house during her absence that culminates in making the funniest life caricature of Da Vinci's "the Last Supper" I've ever seen and by attempting to rape her when she comes back earlier than expected. Viridiana is a woman of virtue but all her good intentions lead nowhere. I am not surprised that the film was banned and all copies were ordered to be destroyed (Silvia Penal in her interview recalls the dramatic story of two copies of the film that were saved and buried, so they could wait for the better times), I am surprised how Bunuel was able to make this super dark dramedy about the inability of the Catholic Church to deal with the realities of the world at all in his native Spain when Franco was still in power.

Technically, Viridiana is a perfect film, odd and enigmatic behind the seeming simplicity. It's power lays not in the set decorations, stunning locations or the colorful costumes but in a way people interact. When asked what were his ideas behind his films, Bunuel answered, "I have no ideas, it is all instinct".

It took 17 years to bring "Viridiana" home to Spain where it was first shown at the theaters in 1977. It took another 29 years to transfer it to Criterion DVD. Now it is available with several interesting bonus features that include interview with Silvia Penal from 2006, an interview with Richard Norton, the Cineaste editor and the best one, the parts of the film about Bunuel that was made back in 60th and the man in the documentary is as enigmatic, odd, charming, brilliant, and sinister as his films are.

Highly recommended.
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not completely artistically free, but one of Buñuel's best and most sincere
rogierr7 August 2001
Buñuel emphasizes again that the rich take their perspective for granted and the poor initially literally don't know how to handle the opportunities thrown at their feet, and who can blame them? The rich in this film know how to control their subversive tendencies, because they are taught how to handle their position, their money and simply their manners. The poor and disabled are naively given opportunities and gradually make an unbelievable mess of it, without ever considering the (moral) implications of their actions. Viridiana is the kind soul who makes the naive mistakes, like helping the beggars in the wrong way.

Although this is the great Fernando Rey's (French Connection, Cet obscur objet du désir, and here speaking Spanish) first and shortest collaboration with Buñuel, it must be his most convincing performance. His character Don Jaime morally blackmails Viridiana accompanied by psalms. This delicately illustrates Buñuel's loathing of churches and convents (where Viridiana lived) that cannot prevent people from their sexual desires. A contrast is made with the beggars later in the film, who listen to Händel, Beethoven and Mozart without properly hearing what it is, but have fun and unfortunately take advantage of their newly acquired personal wealth.

The surrealism and magic realism will be presented again by Buñuel in later years (after 1966, and also in Ángel exterminador, 1962), but this film is one of Buñuel's subtlest and best acted and has a clear message without being superficial or pedantic. To what extent it is a parody on The Last Supper I don't know and also I can't figure out what this somnambulism (also in Tristana '70) should mean in religious terms. But Buñuel and cinematographer Jose F. Aguayo (also Tristana) delivered a worthy film that may be Buñuel's least outrageous but most realistic and aesthetically perfected film. 'Journal d'une femme de chambre' (Buñuel, 1964) is one film that comes close to that. Also, 'Charme discret de la bourgeoisie' and 'Ángel exterminador' seem to deal with a Last Supper in their own brilliant way.

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A masterpiece that remains unsurpassed to this day
Martin Bradley4 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Long exiled from his native Spain, Luis Bunuel was meant to return in triumph and create his masterpiece, which is precisely what he did though his triumph was short-lived and his masterpiece, "Viridiana", quite simply one of the greatest works of art in any medium, proved to be a source of scandal to Franco, his regime and the Vatican. What Bunuel did was to bite the hand that fed him all the way to the shoulder blade. "Viridiana" is virulently anti-Catholic, some felt to the point of blasphemy and it's imagery proved shocking way beyond the point of forgiveness. (Like all great works of art the film still shocks today, so forceful is Bunuel's message).

The storyline is simplicity itself. A young novice is asked by her uncle to visit him at his château before taking her final vows and entering the convent. Consumed by lust at her resemblance to his late wife he drugs her with the intention of raping her but then can't go through with it. Nevertheless, he tells her that he did and subsequently hangs himself. Feeling she has been violated, the novice renounces her vows but moves into her uncle's house determined to devote her life to helping the poor and flagellating herself to atone for what she sees as her sins. The film culminates in one of the most extraordinary sequences in all of cinema as the beggars she has taken in pillage the house and finally rape her in a mock re-enactment of Da Vinci's 'Last Supper' to the strains of the Alleluia Chorus.

All of this, of course, proved much too much for the conservative, staunchly Catholic regime who promptly had the film banned and had they had their way would have had all prints destroyed. Whether or not they recognized it as a devastating satire of Swiftian proportions, viciously barbed and often very funny, is debatable. (Facists are conspicuous by their lack of a sense of humour). Regardless, it sealed Bunuel's fate in Spain for the rest of Franco's reign and marked the beginning of one of his most productive periods though he was never again to reach the inspired heights he reached here. I doubt if any film made since has surpassed it.
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Luis Bunuel at his finest!
framptonhollis21 July 2017
By the end of "Viridiana", the viewer has experienced an explosion of unique and original cinema. This often banned, highly controversial film is perhaps the finest work within famous surrealist Luis Bunuel's prolific filmography, joining the ranks of such masterpieces as "Un chien andalou" and "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie". It is a film split into two distinct halves; the first half focuses on the nun Viridiana's brief visit to her sick uncle's mansion in which she has a strange, demented encounter with the man after he suggests something taboo and, frankly, perverted. The situation escalates, leading to the second half in which Viridiana is left scarred and desperately seeks redemption by caring for a group of impoverished men and women, each of whom has their own quirks and flaws as well as a fine taste for mischief and, in the end, absolute chaos.

The first half succeeds in terms of tragic, disturbing drama, while the second takes a much more comical approach while still remaining quite dark and chilling in tone. The end result is a fusion of comedy and drama that is as haunting, unique, weird, and awkward as any film in the history of world cinema. There are no heroes or villains in Bunuel's world, only characters, each with their own ups and downs, and the cast of characters showcased in "Viridiana" serves as strong evidence for that claim. The title character (played with all of the necessary charm and melancholy needed by the lovely Silvia Pinal) is both an occasionally foolish pawn for Bunuel's religious satire as well as an empathetic and kindhearted woman who only wants to do good, but, unfortunately, is doomed to much failure. The poverty stricken individuals she seeks to support are fueled by entertaining and hilarious personalities; their banter is witty and their actions are often shocking, and I could not help but love them, and LOVE watching them (especially when they acted out in the most outrageous ways possible)! Bunuel is a genius when it comes to, among many other things, challenging his audience's morals; he pokes the viewer with a mischievous stick that dares them to laugh along with the sickest plots imaginable and to enjoy the zany presence of some of his most immoral characters.

Various scenes from "Viridiana" surpass most other movies in terms of humor, magic, and flat-out quality. One sequence is made historical due mainly to its unique editing, as Bunuel's lens captures a prayer conducted by Viridiana and the impoverished jesters she seeks to save that is contrasted with the hard workers surrounding them. Bunuel cuts from prayer to labor in a way that fills my stomach with butterflies and my mind with awe; it is a tongue and cheek, meaningful little sequence that is further enhanced by its unbeatable technical mastery as brilliant editing, sound design/mixing, and camera movement/placement. That one scene alone should serve as an urgent enough recommendation for any film lover to immediately seek out and watch this brilliant, blasphemous, tragic, and hilarious epic of a film.
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A very moral movie...
SixtusXLIV11 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There are, basically, two kinds of morals. Historically, the first kind is the one "imposed from above" by some God, King or Imperator. It was a necessity of agrarian civilizations. The same people had to live together and rules were needed.. Morals tended to be enforced by a "Sacerdotal class". Moral became synonym or "Religion"... The Catholic Church inherited this from the Jews, who inherited it from the Egyptians and Caldeans.

The other is "consensus morals". It was invented by the Greeks and it is the source of modern morals (if such thing exists, today) and democracy.

Viridiana is one of the strange Bunuel's film, from this point of view. She was living happily in the convent, when her Mother Superior, sends her "into the world" for a time. She his raped by her tutor or uncle , who commits suicide..

Afterwards, she transforms the family property into an "Hotel for the poor". One day that she has to leave, those poor set up a party.

They,surprisingly, show good taste (French linen table cover, roast Lamb, Caramel Custard, Haendel's Messiah for music). There is also some bad behavior from a blind fellow and an attempt at rape!!.

When the "Law and Order" comes, cousin Jorge, the new heir to the estate (played by Francisco Rabal) finds nothing better to do, for the moment, than play "Tute" with is servant Ramona and Viridiana has no choice, but to join. The music is some stupid modern song of the sixties (in English)... For those interested, "Tute" in Spanish means more than just a card game...

She can no longer be a servant of Religion, not even a help to the poor. She will be possessed by her cousin and will work the land (these are Bunuel's words in a documentary, not my invention). She will be a new slave of the modern world..

Gracias por nos haver advertido, Dom Luis...
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Cosmoeticadotcom23 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The criticism of intent is a killer on bad films that have no real depth and do not last a few years beyond their intent's purpose. Such was re-emphasized to me watching Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel's vastly overrated black and white 1961 'shock classic' Viridiana. Of course, all the alleged shock value had to do with Buñuel's puerile attempts to poke fun at and scandalize both the Roman Catholic Church and the regime of Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and nearly five decades later it looks more like a college prank video than any serious cinema. Furthermore, it is not in the least bit subversive, as many poor critics claim, because its criticism of the Church, especially- and even then, was so manifest as to make one wonder if those who claimed it had subversive qualities even knew what the term meant.

Of course, given Buñuel's start as a Surrealist superstar- that overused and often misapplied term, it's no surprise that much of his filmic career would be seen through such a pretentious lens- especially by fans masquing as critics, rather than dealing with the individual films, and whether they fail or not. The fact is, while Viridiana is a reasonably capably made film- on a technical level (although there is no standout cinematography, musical scoring, nor interesting visual compositions), it fails because its screenplay is abysmal. As in other 'classics' of his, whose luster has faded (think Belle De Jour), Viridiana is larded with cardboard characters, caricatures, and outright stereotypes that are bad enough, alone, but given that they are not put to any truly subversive use, makes them all the more a wasted effort. They also suggest the paper thin grasp of reality- especially the political sort, that die hard Leftists like him are often represented as having; making him the biggest unintended caricature of all those associated with the film.

Yes, Buñuel is not as pretentious and lacking in filmic basics as that other Surreal fraud, Jean Cocteau- so what? That doesn't make Buñuel a Master; not even close, despite all the praise tossed his way. Viridiana fails not for a huge error or two, but for an unending string of little wrong and inane things, such as ridiculous symbolism- Viridiana sleepwalks and tosses ashes into Jaime's bed, and a film that moves far too quickly and gives no real insight into anything- especially its characters. For ellipses to work, they must be deployed within well-defined characterization, so that viewers can reasonably extrapolate the elided events. Without that, the missing elements shortchange both the tale and the characters.

Furthermore, the film's criticism of Roman Catholicism is absolutely depthless- it has been done before and since, and done better. There is no intellectual rigor, nor a hint of poesy. The political intent overwhelms the minuscule art. And, without real characters, who gives a damn what is intended? The exercise is rendered pointless by its own incompetence, something that haunts most of the Buñuel canon, which may explain why Viridiana- film and character, have such vacancies in their gazes.
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hardly a masterpiece
Niccolo Machiavelli20 November 2015
Wow, people writing too serious reviews for a film that is pretty much ordinary. Bunuel's Nazarin or Simon del Desierto are much better movies than this one. You people take the message of the movie and write reviews regarding only the message. Religion sucks. That's pretty much it. Bunuel isn't a genius, he is even quite predictive in his work which makes him boring. I liked Nazarin really much, but all his films are only communist and nihilistic propaganda. World sucks, Church sucks the most, there is no morality etc. I'ts simply boring. We all know the world and how it works, and then he makes bunch of movies where he shows us what we already know from our own experience...come on man. Sure he was big time director in Spain in the time communism was hype, but communism died..and his movies now represent just that - something that died. Viridiana had an interesting opening 15 min....after the death of her uncle the movie just got boring and predictive. This could have been a really nice thriller/drama, but it just looks like Bunuel changed his mind in the middle of the movie, and simply changed course.. Sucks.. I gave a 6 only because it's Bunuel, and interesting first 15-20 min...
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Despite being brought back specifically to make a Spanish film, Buñuel just lets loose and tears into everyone and everything.
johnnyboyz23 April 2009
Viridiana's recent BBFC classification was a '15' certificate, rendering it mature enough only for anyone over the age of 15. I suppose that is a true testament as to how well Viridiana has held up over the decades; the fact a film from the early 1960s, when censorship was not as relaxed as it is now, can get re-released and still get slapped with a censorship rating on par with stuff like the second Terminator film and Saving Private Ryan. Even the director's own 1950 film entitled Los Olvidados got a '12' certificate in 2007, a film that I would consider a tad more disturbing than Viridiana. Such is the power, I suppose, and such is the controversy Viridiana still carries – a film that was banned in Spain until 1977 when the last remnants of Franco's reign as Spain's ruler was occurring, but additionally disowned by the Vatican church.

But Francisco Franco was never a big fan of Luis Buñuel anyway, to the point Buñuel had to flee the country. Viridiana was one of only very few films Buñuel ever made in Spain, but it was hated enough by said agents to get it banned and loved enough by others for it to win the 1961 Palme d'Or in Cannes. The film itself, with all this aura and history, is a curious beast. It's a film that makes great use of certain filmic 'spaces' and studies them accordingly; a film that dips in and out of horror, great melodrama and taboo romance whilst having it all play out within a very ominous and large Gothic house that consistently houses some really rather slimy characters.

It is Buñuel's attack on religion in general that attracted most of the criticisms, although at the very core of the film is a young and very religious character whose name is of the title; that being Viridiana (Pinal). As a nun, it's the tearing out of the religious space she should be inhabiting and putting her through an emotional grinder that attracts the early attention; a rendering her of the 'everyday' type – an event that forces her to drop her religious life and place her someplace else that raises the most eyebrows. The girl in question is Viridiana, a young female nun visiting her uncle in a remote manor house in rural Spain. The uncle is Don Jaime (Rey), a man who, when taking about the house in which he lives in, mentions its overgrown grounds and uncleaned interior in the same casual breath as he does loneliness and potential mental illness. It is not down to bad acting or bad delivery; it is a sly inclusion of something as trivial as un-kept grounds mixed in with heartfelt confessions of a man near to suicide.

Part of the mind games in Viridiana is its establishing of a central character in Don Jaime before branching out into something else altogether. The eeriness and disturbance of Don Jaime's actions builds in a neat but very unnerving hierarchy, mentioning that she looks like what his wife looked like before she died before trying to convince her to try on the wedding dress she wore the day they were married; during which you can see the lust in Jaime's face as he asks her. What follows is a marriage proposal, before an attempted escape on Viridiana's behalf and then the supposed rape of Viridiana.

Naturally, she leaves utterly disgusted but is forced to return to the manor house upon news of Don Jaime's fate. From here, the film opens up into something else – it becomes a film where Viridiana runs the house with Don Jaime's son Jorge (Ribal), and his own partner named Lucia (Zinny). Viridiana, in a kind state of mind, offers several poor and diseased people the chance to live on the grounds as well, but not in the house. Later on though, these poor people will inhabit the house. It is a haunting passage of events during which they are inhabiting a space unbeknown to them; a rich space in which the poor are now at home in. I could pluck some wild examples out of the air in regards to 'rich' spaces being inhabited by those we do not expect to see inhabiting them; anything from a particular episode of television show The Simpsons in which two carnival workers squat in the family of the show's title's home to 2005 Bruce Willis vehicle 'Hostage', in which three individuals, established to be of a poorer variety, take over a post-modern cliff-side villa.

Both these examples, as well as Viridiana, carry a certain menace to them; the predicament that things are where they don't belong and are running free without rules. This resides when you watch Viridiana. I wouldn't say the predicaments were 'uncanny' in any way but they carry a fascinating ingredient this side of menace. It is additionally, during this segment, the infamous 'Last Supper' scene is played out, as these filthy individuals re-enact the famous painting and play the roles of the disciples as well as Jesus himself. Just like in said examples, the poor in Viridiana examine the tables and exquisite furniture in the house; they touch the table clothes and poke around – alienated and confused but with their curiosity aroused all the same. The finale to Viridiana is a further jolt out of the blue, a desperate situation that needs to be resolved very quickly and quite brutally. As an historic piece, Viridina works wonders and as a piece by itself, it is equally fascinating.
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Some thoughts on Mulvey in a Buñuelian context... by the way, Viridiana is a masterpiece
JoeMonco19 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
In many ways, Buñuel's nontraditional cinema adheres to Mulvey's theory of the male gaze and the female image. However, one must also consider that Buñuel does not seem to be subconsciously adhering to this traditional practice, but instead building sequences (and later in his career, entire films) upon this idea. In Un Chien Andalou, the female character is at one point treated as an object of lust by the cyclist. In Los Olvidados, Jaibo takes the same stance concerning Pedro's mother– as does Viridiana's uncle toward Viridiana in Viridiana, most of the male characters in Diary of a Chambermaid toward Celestine, and all of That Obscure Object of Desire chronicles Mathieu's search to attain his unattainable "object of desire," Conchita. Female characters are often put on display, but not for the same purposes as, for example, Mulvey's "performing woman." Buñuel's lens is intrusive and voyeuristic (but is so often placed their under the guise of a voyeuristic character): the milk dripped on Meche's legs (seen by Jaibo), the drugged Viridiana taken advantage of by Don Jaime (observed by the maid's daughter), and several scenes in That Obscure Object of Desire (which, interestingly enough focuses more on Mathieu, the voyeur, than what he is seeing). In terms of how Buñuelian male characters exercise their pleasure phallically, penetratively, and sadistically, many Sade-like situations are set up in his early films: the forced fondling in Un Chien Andalou, Don Jaime's (possible) rape of the drugged Viridiana, and L'Age d'Or's climax plays out Sade's 120 Days of Sodom with Christ as the head of the libertines. In a way, Buñuel adhered to these traditional gender depictions, but he did it in such a self-reflexive and shockingly novel way, that instead of merely presenting female images for a voyeuristic audience, he makes a commentary on these images and the nature of voyeurism itself– forcing us to confront it, rather than simply watching.

Tying into these ideas is psychoanalytic film theory– Mulvey claims that films are linked to the perspective and ideology of the director. In terms of Buñuel, one cannot really say that his films exemplify this model, as practically everything in Buñuel's films is subversive. One cannot say that Buñuel's ideologies are inherently linked to what the camera shows us, as contradictions abound: in Los Olvidados and Land Without Bread, questions are raised, but no definitive answers given. In films like Viridiana and Diary of a Chambermaid, society is seemingly condemned. L'Age d'Or and The Phantom of Liberty include social commentaries, but are for the most part injected with surrealistic silliness. How can we say that Buñuel's films are intrinsically linked to Buñuel's ideology? We cannot, therefore we must view Buñuel as a subversive innovator, one who may have adhered to certain cinematic norms, but twisted others in directions that could not be any further from the "status quo."
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Film does not stand the test of time
lastliberal28 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Luis Buñuel directed some great films, and this may have been one in 1961, when the conditions in Spain were bad only a generation after the military coup by Franco. However, it really does not stand the test of time and, despite the fact that one is expected to sing the great director's praises at every opportunity, it is a disappointment.

Sister Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) is waiting to take her final vows when Mother Superior orders her to return home for a few days to properly show her appreciation to the uncle (Fernando Rey) that supported her in the novitiate (translated: gave the Church a lot of money).

He is a recluse who is obsessed with his dead wife. Viridiana is a dead ringer. But, her piety and religious devotion cause her to reject his advances and return to the convent. He commits suicide and she feels guilty. Why? She did nothing wrong. Anyway, she gathers some poor off the street and tries to reform them as her penance.

This is where Rush Limbaugh would have a field day. They are the most degenerate lot of beggars, fornicators, and thieves she could have put together. They are in no way appreciate of her help and end up trashing the house in a drunken bacchanal.

Meanwhile, the illegitimate son of the uncle is reveling in his new good fortune by kicking out his girlfriend and making moves on Viridiana. After she sees that her efforts at charity are useless (translation: if first you don't succeed, then quit), she resigns herself to probable ménage à trois with the cousin and the maid.

Depressing and dated, it is not one I would recommend. Buñuel has done so many better films.
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An Utterly Graceful Experience, and an Invaluable Intellectual Piece of Work
jzappa21 November 2010
Buñuel didn't intend Viridiana to be sacrilegious. Just an uncompromising view of a world that can't be saved. The film's quite unmistakably partitioned into two halves. The first half begins with the eponymous young woman, played by the stunningly beautiful young Silvia Pinal with a marble sheen of purity and innocence, and the depth of an all-too-relatable psychosomatic susceptibility to all that act upon her, such as her unpredictable uncle played with off-putting sincerity by Fernando Rey, whose tragic self-delusion causes him to fetishistically associate Viridiana with his late wife. Much like The Virgin Spring, another religiously themed 1961 masterpiece, Viridiana's journey is portrayed so serenely, sensually and gracefully that when we face incredibly powerful, uncomfortable or enigmatic moments, we haven't even seen them coming, and when we have, they've already pounced on us. With every quality of every production specialty, the effect is sheer simplicity, no instability despite whatever viciousness or emotional tremors, making them all that much more inherently poignant.

That's vital to its thematic consistency as well as its sensory impact. There is a scene near the convergence of the two "acts" that involves an intended rape foiled by guilt, a tormented attempt at blackmail that results in a muddle of confessions and guilt-ridden fabrications, and ultimately, an offense taken so deeply that even a figure of such pious naivete and self-punishing reverence cannot grant forgiveness. Offense and forgiveness seem to be the film's central preoccupation, embodied by well-intentioned people, ill-equipped for life. Throughout the second half, Viridiana instigates goings-on brought about by her feeling of guilt, one detached from any methodological or ceremonial sense.

This half explores Bunuel's commitment to change as Viridiana gathers a group of local vagabonds to care for and shelter on the uncle's estate: a daunting blind man, a scuttling jester, a woman with two babies, a pregnant woman, a gimp, a prominent-seeming old guy from another sort of movie, a singer, a dwarf, and a leper. The drifters epitomize an array of human potential that Buñuel wants neither to reject nor commemorate, but to challenge, which is why the film, despite the dismay of several of its moments and the devastating chaos of its later scenes, is invigorating instead of just disheartened or dismal. What we are seeing is both horrible and droll, and we're the better for not having turned away.

The film's thoughtful and measured. It's gracefully shot; each image communicating something distinct and particular, which is to be anticipated from an alleged fetishist. It makes no patent, clear-cut assertion, but rather delivers Buñuel's view that our animal natures are invariably waiting to spring. The lecherous uncle is not portrayed as a horrible man as much as a forlorn and despondent one, who longs to indulge a sin but lacks the required impropriety. Nor is the eponymous nun's cousin a lecher, nor is she a fallen women, and the beggars merely act as they've been acclimatized by the social order.

Left with the estate to themselves for a day, the tramps search the main house, eyeball the paintings, the linen, the silver, and opt to have a banquet. In a magnificently cynical cut, Buñuel goes right from an early moment of this searching to a late point of the feast: the main course demolished, bottles everywhere, and everyone inebriated. One of the babies cries, two women have an atrocious wrestle, the leper puts on Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus," to which a succession of small subsequent actions lead to utter chaos. The screenplay, possibly suggesting the sensation instead of the reality, mentions "carnage" and an "absurd orgy." In the film's most notorious moment, everyone assembles along one side of the table for a "photograph" of a scene that unmistakably mimics The Last Supper.

It's very likely that Bunuel knew more about irreverence than the pope did. But the sacrilege is not hostile to God and Jesus. It's against the trust in improvement, at least in its traditional implications, whether in the guise of a character's ideas for civilizing the estate or of Viridiana's mission to enrich the vagabonds' lives. The beggars are not vile or evil. They're the disorder of life itself, a keepsake that bliss, curiosity and desire can at any time resort to devastation and brutality. This is not an case against those unquestionably positive things, or an demand for rules and doctrine. It's a portrait of a civilization that doesn't value its own needs. Buñuel's cynicism and indignation embroil the miniaturization of our idea of change and improvement, our limited efforts to reach it through reasonable or didactic preparation, and our eager contempt for the disorderly influences without which no civilization would be human.

To me, the most special and important scene in this film is not entrenched in religious controversy but in the hopelessness of existence, and it encapsulates Buñuel's view of life: It's the scene with the dog tied to moving carts by ropes that'd choke it if it stops hurrying. Viridiana's cousin buys it to save it from its running distress, yet he doesn't see, as he turns away, another cart with another bound dog coming the other way. This is the man who's about to disparage Viridiana for her endeavors at generosity. A film like this is invigorating. It's helmed by a sharp, idiosyncratic brain. It's not another reductive rendering of reassuring feel-good fabrications. All the time, there's another cart and another dog bound to it.
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they're creepy and they're kooky
tsf-196222 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's no wonder that Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel made most of his films and Mexico and France; they were probably the only countries at the time tolerant enough for his brand of weirdness. Seeing his movies you see where the producers of "The Addams Family" got their inspiration; like his compatriot Goya Bunuel has a taste for Gothic horror and the kind of monsters the sleep of reason produces. "Viridiana" was made in Spain with Mexican money and a Mexican star (Sylvia Pinal). Pinal plays an innocent novice who returns home before taking her final vows. Unfortunately she attracts the unwanted attention of her creepy uncle ("The French Connection"'s Fernando Rey, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Gomez Addams). When she resists his advances, he hangs himself. Viridiana now thinks she can never be a nun, so she opens a homeless shelter instead. Unfortunately, the beggars and tramps she brings in are ungrateful scum who trash the place and she has to call the National Guard on them. Realizing the pointlessness of doing good in a world full of evil, Viridiana gives in to the sexual advances of her playboy cousin. The climax of this film is the blasphemous, obscene, but undeniably funny homage to Leonardo's "Last Supper" that the late Robert Altman ripped off in the movie "M*A*S*H." Bunuel, a self-professed Marxist, hated the rich, but judging from this movie he didn't love the poor very much either. One gets the impression that he hated people in general. Then there's Bunuel's trademark anti-Christian message. You have to wonder what hold the Catholic Church had on Bunuel for him to feel the need to attack it so stridently in so many films; surely Christianity must have had some attraction for him to hate it so much. Still, in spite of its twisted ideological perspective, this is an immensely entertaining film. Bunuel was perhaps the cinematic equivalent of Jonathan Swift, except he didn't love individuals.
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Rather dated, overrated, and not one of Buñuel's best anyway.
felixoteiza19 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry Buñuel fans, I know comparisons are odious but if I had to pick the definitive Maestro between him and Fellini, I'd say Fellini without a doubt. And Viridiana gives me the best arguments. Let's face it: this is a dated movie, hardly a classic. The raw value of a classic is above all its resilience to time and V. doesn't do well through that test; even more considering that its lasting value comes from that "slap in the face to Franco" and from a rather gratuitous blasphemy scene. Also, the movie is not the fruit of an unique stroke of creative genius, but instead a work with sources of inspiration in two traditional Hispano American cultural creatures.

Most Buñuel reviewers fail to recognize where he gets his real sources and influences. For ex. they say of Phantasm that it got no structure, when the fact it has one, that of a "novela picaresca", a genre born in Spain in 1554. The protagonist of the N.P. is usually a man born in the lowest strata of society--gen. an orphan--who grew up having to endure numerous hardships under the yoke of cruel, miserable masters, including assorted clerics and blind men. Structurally a NP is a sequence of short, unrelated, stories, their only common link being the "picaro", its protagonist. About Phantasm, Buñuel himself said once that his initial idea was to use one single character as the link, so I'll rest my case there. You can do further research, but let's just say the mood of a NP is usually ugly, one of utter disenchantment, even if the picaro tries to keep a brave face when telling his story--because he's also the narrator—spicing it up with dark humor. (For ex. in Lazarillo de Tormes the essential NP, the way he got rid of his blind master--he says--was to put the man in front of a post, telling him there was an irrigation ditch in the way, so he had to jump as far as he could—-so you can see there the traditional inspiration for the ugliness and cruelty of the beggars here). The other traditional source which inspires the first part of the movie, is Hispano American melodrama, mostly Mexican and Spanish.

Contrary to North American melodrama, which focuses on intrigue, plot twists, clash of personalities, Iberoamerican melodrama is corny, sappy and it focuses mainly in getting the waterworks going. One plot line that was used and abused for decades was for ex. that of the poor woman who gives birth to and illegitimate child, who is then taken away and given in adoption to a rich family. Decades later the still poor woman goes to work as a maid in a wealthy household and guess what...You got it, the master of the house is her lost son. So when the last episode comes out, their coming together, there's no one single handkerchief to be found in the whole city.

The main character here comes right out of Hispanic melodrama; that's why I don't like it, specially when Pinal overdoes the virginal vestal. It is as if once given her marching orders she would have switched herself to make for the sappiest soap opera heroine. Come on, I've known girls like that but never one like her. In real life they usually lose that innocence as soon as they step out of the convent. Viridiana is unrealistic, a caricature; no wonder the movie seems to become real only once the beggars are left alone. It would have been better if Buñuel had thought of her as just another down to earth character, but it seems he was bent on keeping her above the crowd as some kind of a metaphor. Of a Spain torn between its traditional forces maybe--the Church and a decaying land aristocracy--but I fail to see there in what Arrabal's Jorge can be compared to Franco. Franco wasn't a urban liberal at all but an ultra conservative, uber traditionalist, dictator and war criminal. That's also why, returning to Viridiana, I prefer actresses from outside doing Hispanic heroines when it comes to melodrama. Hispanic actresses can be good at comedy, satire--as Pinal certainly is in Simon and Exterminating Angel-but when it comes to melodrama they seem genetically programmed to ham it up, to tune themselves to get the audience's waterworks going full blast, or else they may think they have failed.

So, while Fellini was instrumental in giving birth to a new film genre, Italian neo-realism and then went to create his own universe--Fellinesque we call it--where the characters born of his own fruitful imagination, memories, could evolve at ease, there's no such equivalent in Buñuel's work. Buñuel got propelled into surrealism in his association with Dali, of course, but he is more apt at showing his philosophy of life—his disenchantment with mankind and its pathetic attempts to reach the transcendental, its habit of debasing everything it touches; his own amazement at the weirdness of the situations we find ourselves many times in life--and also at bringing memories and dreams to the screen, he was more apt at that than at creating a new universe where his own characters could live and evolve--as Kafka did in literature and Fellini in movies. That's why many Fellinis are timeless, I could watch them many times over, while quite a few Buñuels are already irremediably dated, as Viridiana. I say 6.5/10, of interest mostly for film students and Buñuel fans.
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