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When the young woman Tristana's mother dies, she is entrusted to the guardianship of the well-respected though old Don Lope. Don Lope is well-liked and well-known because of his honorable nature, despite his socialistic views about business and religion. But Don Lope's one weakness is women, and he falls for the innocent girl in his charge, seduces her, makes her his lover, though all the while explaining to her that she is as free as he. But when she acts on this freedom, Don Lope must deal with the consequences of his world-view. Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
I can't say I know Luis Bunuel's style well, since I've not seen many of his works, and those that I've seen usually just struck me as blah. But then yesterday I saw Tristana which starred Catherine Deneuve and was awe-struck by it. See, the comments that I've read online about it have seem to have the focus all wrong, they are more interested in commenting on Bunuel's usual attack on the bourgeois and catholicism. Yes it is dark and in some places rather surreal, but above all, Tristana is a simple and sad story about its characters as they grapple with life, love, loss and regret. It is especially well-crafted with its sinewed study of human relationships, and humans that desperately try to relate with each other.
Tristana, played brilliantly by Catherine Denueve, is the central character whom we see evolve from an innocent young girl with her many ideals about love and relationship, to a bitter and cynical woman at the film's end who cannot believe in anything any longer. It is with special finesse that Deneuve plays her, that we witness, with heartbreak, every turn of her back on the things she love, and every rejection of all morality that she held before.
Fernando Rey's character is probably the murkiest but ultimately most empathetic character, as at the end of the film, age wears off his hard-edged cynicism and turns him into the loving father figure that Tristana desperately needed in the beginning of the film. In a sense, it is a film about age, how when we reach a certain point in our lives we see things much clearer and as it is, rather than try to twist things to our advantage. The way Rey's character treasures the time with the vile and vindictive Tristana at the end of the film is not only overwhelmingly sad, but also an epiphany by an auteur who is gaining age himself.
In spite of all its dramatic turns of events, Tristana is not an emotional and angsty film in its portrayal of its characters' lives. Instead it is a soft and peaceful film that sympathetically accepts its characters' flaws as much as it forgives them. It is a film that evokes the intricate feeling of looking back in our dark and troubled past and finding the exquisite moments of happiness amidst all the cynicism and grit. When, towards the end, Rey reaches the peace that he has been struggling so hard to attain throughout the film, he notes, 'It's snowing so hard outside, but in this house, I'm nice and warm. What's there not to be happy about?'. A silent recognition that peace is not bending reality to your own will, but merely, acceptance.
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