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The story develops in the Spain rural between the years 40 and 50, where "Viridiana" (Silvia Pinal) a nun novice who leaves temporarily her convent to meet her uncle benefactor "Don Jaime" (Fernando Rey), who lives withdrawn in a homestead abandoned since the death of his wife occurred the same day your wedding. There receives a visit from his niece "Viridiana" of great similar physical with his wife. His uncle "Don Jaime" will prove to be attracted by the charms of female "Viridiana" and try having sexual relations with the young, and to not get its purpose, "Don Jaime" suicide, which causes a feeling of guilt in "Viridiana" that abandons his religious management to devote time to Christian charity in a home that will have to share with his cousin "Jorge" (Francisco Rabal love child . Luis Bunuel creates a masterpiece cruel heartbreaking and pioneer in almost all aspects, is almost a catalog of the miseries of human beings. It is a mixture of narration , brush-stroke surrealists and characters esperpénticos., where your scene summit is a parody of the "Last Supper" of Leonardo Da Vinci starring masterfully by a group of actors who interpret the poor that welcomes "Viridiana". It is a scene to see repeated several times and not to miss nor a detail. Another character secondary in who should be fixed is "Ramona", (Margarita Lozano) and her attitude toward "Don Jaime" first and with "Jorge" after. And of course, the last and surprising scene for what it means, of the three characters "Viridiana" "Ramona" and "Jorge". I cannot fail to mention the excellent Photograph in black and white of José F. Aguayo. It is certainly the best film of Luis Bunuel after "Los Olvidados" and a masterpiece of course
I can't think of any other film that attacks organized religion with
such malice, as well as eloquence, as "Viridiana." The events in the
movie are as mythically shocking as anything in the Bible. Bunuel's
attitudes towards the church are bitter, brutal, cynical and cathartic,
in other words, not terribly complex. But Bunuel, who could easily rank
in (at least) the top 10 of a "Greatest Filmmakers of all Time" list,
undercuts this with a genius ability to tell a story, and a gorgeous
visual style on the level of Welles and Lang.
If guilt and shame are the heart of the Catholic Church, than hypocrisy must be its lungs. While the ultimate goal of this (still) political institution is power, secrets, cover-ups, and denial are its most effective weapons in achieving this goal. These weapons, over the centuries, have kept the Church alive and pushed the message of Jesus further out of reach. The result is a society, as in the one in "Viridiana," where treachery is delicately veiled in "piety." Bunuel conveys this message as only the greatest poets do.
*** This review may contain 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 narratorspicing 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 lifehis 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.
*** This review may contain 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.
Bunuel is, for me, the most original and creative filmmaker from Spain. I love all his films, including those from his Mexican phase which are meant to be poorer but are not. Viridiana is a beautiful transition between his Mexican films and his European period (in fact, Viridiana is a co-production and the actress is a Mexican star). The film is extremely beautiful, and this is just magic, for Viridiana is about the darkest aspects of human behaviour. Poverty, selfishness, the impossibility to change things to make the world a better place... all this and much more too is found in this film. And, yet, you love all the shots, beautifully arranged. The endings is intriguing and invites you to see Viridiana many more times.
Before 'Viridiana', the only other Buñuel film that I had seen was
'Belle de Jour'. That film was made after Buñuel had shifted to France.
'Viridiana' and 'Belle de Jour' have some similarities and some
dissimilarities. 'Viridiana' was the first film that Buñuel made after
returning to Spain by serving his political exile.
The screenplay written by Buñuel and Julio Alejandro is loosely based on a novel by Benito Pérez Galdós called 'Halma'. For me this film is a coming-of-age story in the same way 'Belle de Jour' was. However the emotional and spiritual journeys that the respective lead characters embark upon are in the opposite directions. Severine in 'Belle de Jour' is an emotionally complicated woman whose opinions about sexuality had been shaped by unfortunate childhood experiences. She had a narrow masochistic idea of what sex is and was not receptive to emotional attachment. But over the course of the film, she undergoes self-realisations and in the end opens up to the idea of accepting sexual connection on a more emotional level. However in 'Viridiana', we see a very idealistic and naive young woman about to take her oath to be a nun, take a traumatic journey to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, where her idea of love and care for the fellow human being gets tested constantly and in the end she is forced to bid farewell to her puritan ways and get used to this dark, corrupted world. The ending can be interpreted as an optimistic as well as pessimistic. It can easily be seen as a depressing and sad note to end the film on where a virtuous woman of convictions gets forced to compromise. On the other hand I would argue that the ending can also be seen as optimistic as the naive woman has finally matured and understood her position in a dark and depressing world and will probably be able to cope better.
This film is clearly Buñuel's attempt to critique the Spanish society under Franco's regime and it also is a critique on the relevance of Christianity in modern life. Buñuel, like Bergman had grown up in a strict Catholic environment, but gradually over the years he had strayed further and further away from organised religion and had eventually become an atheist. We see his atheism on full show in 'Viridiana'. He doesn't necessarily attack Christianity as a religion, but he does viciously underline the lack of relevance of Christian principles in the modern world and how useless it is to expect Christian philosophies to serve their intended purposes in a world engulfed by hopelessness. Cynicism is a very important theme in the film and it is beautifully expressed visually by Buñuel at times with comical touches. Some of the beautiful images and shots of the film include the dog tied to the moving cart and the whole scene surrounding it, the beautiful inter-cutting between the Viridiana's prayers with the beggars and the work done by the construction workers, the cross which turns out to be a knife, the thorn being burnt in the fire, the shot of Viridiana opening a window with grills which look like prison bars and lastly of course the infamous shot involving the recreation of Da Vinci's Last Supper.
Buñuel's camera is very dynamic. Very seldom do we get an extended shot where the camera remains static. There is constant movement whether it be zooms or panning movements,etc. 'Viridiana' doesn't have as much surrealism as 'Belle de Jour' does, but there are scenes here and there which Buñuel gives a very dream-like tone to. The way the camera moves in the shot which marks the end of the film is beautiful.
Silvia Pinal as Viridiana beautifully portrays the naivety that the character has. She has a deeply moving innocent aura about her which makes it pretty impossible for the viewer to not feel sorry for her and have immense sympathy. Fernando Rey as Don Jaime is brilliant. Jaime is one of the most interesting and layered characters I have seen in a film recently. I don't think I still completely understand him and he remains a bit of a mystery. Rey plays with the contrasts in the character. Jaime is despicable and extraordinarily creepy, but still he fascinates me. Some of Rey's facial expressions or devious smiles are extremely provocative in the sense of trying to analyse the meaning of these expressions. Francisco Rabal as Jorge is extremely charismatic. He is a character that has already adjusted to the society in which he lives and doesn't feel the need to pussyfoot around anything. In a way Jorge is the one who encourages Viridiana to accept the reality of the world. The actors playing the beggars deserve to be admired too as they were entertaining as hell and very funny.
I loved 'Belle de Jour', and now I love 'Viridiana' too. Needless to say this wets my appetite to delve deeper into the filmography of this Spanish master filmmaker. 'Viridiana' might not leave the viewer feeling great about the world, but one can't deny the mastery of the filmmaking on show.
While 'Viridiana' contains some well known aspects of L. Buñuel's
movies, like fetishism or voyeurism, its main target is, like in 'L'Age
D'Or', religion and more particularly Catholicism with its gospel of
pity and altruism. This gospel is personified in an aspirant-nun,
played sublimely by the Mexican actress Silvia Pinal. But, faced with
utterly disgraceful behavior on the part of the poor people she wanted
to help, she becomes on the tones of Haendel's music an anti-Messiah.
For the Catholic Church this movie is fundamentally a blasphemy, symbolized by its hellish parody of the Last Supper (the picture by Leonardo Da Vinci) with the apostles painted as vile and vicious paupers and beggars. Another of L. Buñuel's more controversial viewpoints is his misogyny expressed by Don Jaime's illegitimate son, Jorge: 'all cats are grey at night'.
With a formidable casting, Silvia Pinal being the jewel of the team, this movie didn't lose even a shadow of its subversive bite at Christian morality. A must see for all lovers of world cinema.
cruel, profound, strange. Bunuel in pure form. picture of society transformation and drawing of its values fall. a masterpiece in each ingredient - music, image, acting. and, nothing new, a slice of blasphemy as part of demonstration about deep change of reality. a film about innocence and abyss of good intentions. about meetings and dark gestures. about surrounding of a young woman front with circle of reality. beautiful, impressive, its virtue is timeliness.and the bitter taste of ash front with a critic against patriarchal Spain. broken of illusions, definition of hypocrisy, lesson about cruelty, it is a masterpiece as mirror for a profound savage society.
Invited to return to Spain, from Mexico, to make a film in his homeland, I think it is safe to say the Mr Bunuel gleefully bight the hand that fed him. And quite right too. Bold, brave and brilliantly spot on critique of the church, charity and human nature. The movie is also so wonderfully shot as we seemingly weave before, behind and alongside the various unfortunates brought into the household by the ex-convent girl, Of course, she means well enough but almost as soon as we meet her cousin, who appears off hand and pushy, with regard for nobody but himself, we can't help but get a whiff of reality. Still very affecting after all these years this is a very fine piece of film making. Nor is it all broad strokes, there are such wonderful little touches. The little girl's skipping rope has at least three uses through the film. Men get partially dress in women's clothes twice. The great Fernando Rey, playing her uncle seems overly keen on his ex-wife's shoes. Also, as if the re-enactment of the Last Supper were not enough we have shades of necrophilia. Amusing, provocative and ultimately optimistic, this is a rare delight.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love Buñuel. In fact I consider his other two movies of his "Silvia
Pinal" trilogy masterpieces ("The Exterminating Angel" is among my
favorite movies of all times) not to mention the fantastic "Un Chien
Andalou". Now I don't mind a movie with a anti-religious message
despite of being a very religious person myself (heck, I enjoy things
like "South Park", "Life of Brian" or as mentioned other of Buñuel
movies), however I find some points Buñuel tries to make to shown how
flaw Christianity in "Viridiana" delivered in a pretty poor manner.
"Ow, look she tries to help out some people because the bible tell her to do so but they get drunk and try to rape here so this must mean's Christianity is wrong" Seriously, what kind of argument is this? It has a much sense as making a movie about an atheist who at the end gets hit by a truck and having creator at the end jump out and yell "See? See? This is why atheism is wrong" Im sorry Mr. Buñuel, I love you but that's barley a reasonable argument (if not childish) and I find the scene of burning Jesus crown (depsite of very strong symbolism) in a pretty poor taste.
It's still a very interesting and well put together movie to watch, even if not good as some other of Buñuel's work. In fact I think Christians need movies like that since thy argue for Satan but overall I just don't find it among Buñuel's best!
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