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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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was the second time Bunuel had directed Deneuve and she was probably
never better than when she was directed by the master.
Like Juan Bardem's unfairly forgotten "calle mayor" ,"Tristana depicts a small Spanish town still entangled in religion.But the times are changing.Don Lope (Rey) has become an hedonist and he tells us that it's Mosis who made sex a sin.Tristana is his ward,but as she confesses it to the painter,"I'm his daughter and his wife" .
Tristana is perhaps Bunuel's most complex woman.The physical metamorphosis of Deneuve is stunning.From the virgin who puts her hair in braids to the bitchy one-legged woman ,she runs the whole gamut.She refuses marriage because it kills love,and when she finally becomes Lope's wife,she uses it as a way of humiliating and frustrating her old husband whom she despises .The noise in the corridor as Tristana walks on her crutches while Lope is sipping hot chocolate with his friends (priests) shows frustration as nobody but Bunuel can.
The dream,(Rey as a bell clapper),which will remain "Tristana"'s most famous scene, will puzzle the audience.The first time it had appeared ,I did not think at all it was a dream.Bunuel will take this technique to its absolute limits in "discreet charm of the bourgeoisie",his following work .
We find back some of Bunuel's permanent features in "Tristana" :Lope,full of jealousy and locking up his ward, is a distant cousin of the hero of "El" ;the deaf and dumb boy ,some kind of brother of Maria in "la mort en ce jardin";The old man who sees his youth slip away was already in "Viridiana" (Fernando Rey again);fetishism ;exhibitionism :in a memorable scene,Tristana ,who refuses to give herself to her future husband (the wedding scene follows the exhibitionist one)shows her magnificent body to the deaf and dumb boy,an outcast,the scum of the earth ,derisively.
Recommended,as anything Bunuel did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't want to talk too much about the style of the film, as other
comments do this fairly well. However to briefly surmise them: there is
no non-diegetic music, it is in colour but grainy (looks good, don't
let this put you off), contains surrealist imagery as do all of
Bunuel's films, and the lighting and the cinematography are sublime. I
can rave about the brilliance of the technical aspects of the film, but
to some it is the story content and themes that are the main focus, so
I will talk about this.
The film sees a young orphan taken in by one of her mother's past lovers. Played by Fernando Rey, very well I might add - though this is an understatement. Catherine Deneuve plays the title character to perfection. The orphan becomes both the 'daughter' and lover of Don Lope, Rey's character, and it is the change in power from Don Lope to Tristana that is one of the central themes of the film. In order for Tristana to get freedom she must pay the price of losing her innocence.
Bunuel uses many scenes to show this, such as the balcony scene where Tristana reveals her naked self to her watchful deaf mute servant and childhood friend Saturno. Bunuel also edits this shot with an extended shot of the virgin Mary, and the comparisons are obvious.
The film is very enjoyable, yet still deals with issues such as sexual freedom, power, anti-clericism and anti-bourgeois values amongst others.
The film is not Bunuel's most surreal work, however it still contains the themes and images typical of him. The acting is brilliant, no more so than the leads of Deneuve and Rey. Tristana could be seen as the sister of Severine in Belle De Jour, also played by Deneuve.
Certainly worthy of being in the top ten films of all time. Brilliant!
In the 30's, in Spain, the teenager Tristana (Catherine Deneuve)
becomes an orphan when her mother, who is the servant of Don Lope
(Fernando Rey), dies. Don Lope is a decadent but respected aristocrat,
anticlerical and liberal with socialist principles, and he becomes the
guardian of Tristana. Don Lope sexually abuses of Tristana and develops
a strange lover/father relationship with her.
When Tristana meets the painter Horacio (Franco Nero), they fall in love with each other and Tristana flees from Don Lope. However, years later, Horacio brings Tristana back to Don Lope with a terminal disease on her leg. She has a severed leg and survives, and Don Lope asks her hand in marriage. She accepts but now Tristana is a bitter and cynical woman and Don Lope feels the consequence of his acts in the past.
"Tristana" is a morbid tale of lost of innocence by Luis Buñuel. I had seen this film for the last time on 05 Feb 2003 and despite the wonderful performances of Catherine Deneuve and Fernando Rey, it is not among my favorite Buñuel's films. As usual, the director criticizes the Church and the bourgeois class but his famous surrealism is only presented in Tristana's nightmare. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Tristana"
A cinematic masterpiece, Bunuel's Tristana works on many layers, and can be enjoyed at face-value, as a dark romance, or as a scathing social criticism of pre/post World War II Spain. The latter interpretation is rather difficult to digest with just one viewing, but its allegories of Tristana and Don Lope as fascism and socialism present a richly disguised history of the Spanish Civil War and Spain's constant struggle between the socialist and the fascist. As is typical of Bunuel's work, his characteristic criticism of the Church as well as bourgeoisie lifestyles also presents itself in Tristana, however not as markedly as in such features as L'Age D'Or or The Discreet Charm.
One of the better melodramas by Bunuel that stars Catherine Deneuve --Belle De Jour was the most successful. Tristana is the third installment to Bunuel's ill-fated heroine yarn: as we know, Viridiana and Belle De Jour were the first 2. Nevertheless, the film's not as surreal as these previous two films; however, Bunuel still maintains his use of dream sequences and familiar motifs. Rey is excellent as the lecherous uncle, and Deneuve is also good as the title character. Bunuel has definitely excelled in focusing on the aesthetic approach to a story-line; however, this respect can be overwhelming for some viewers, especially those who are more comfortable with the fast-paced American movies. In short, Tristana is still an excellent movie regardless of these unusual aspects.
It might appear to the uninitiated that Luis Bunuel is making with
Tristana at first a good but very predictable melodrama that turns
somewhere in the second half mark into a strange power-play of desire
turned on its head. But in reality, when looking at it after seeing a
couple of his films, Bunuel's work with Tristana is somehow kind of
touching. He cares about all of his characters- none of whom what they
seem or dumbed down to Lifetime movie levels- and in this
stuck-in-its-ways society there are boundaries that are crossed in
tragic means. Usually one might expect some dark or subtle comedy of
manners or satire on society, but here it's stripped away, as it was
for some of Viridiana, and all that's left is a spare, tense and
expertly manipulated tale where the tables are turned once or twice on
the couple of Don Lope (Fernando Rey) and Tristana (Catherine Deneauve,
maybe her most physically demanding of her two Bunuel roles).
One thing that's extraordinary about how Bunuel directs and allows for his actors to play the scenes is that the emotions are only heightened to a certain level, and never with the aid of things like music or tears. It is what it is: Don Lope has taken care of Tristana as her guardian since her mother died, and now has inserted himself as her father/husband figure, with his servant Saturna (stern-faced but understanding Lola Gaos) a kind of unofficial confessional. Tristana wants some freedom, just to go out and walk around, and feels caught by Don Lope even when not doing anything... until she meets Franco Nero's Don Horacio, a painter who could promise a new life. This goes without saying that one should take it for granted that Tristana isn't *that* young and could take care of herself without Lope, but maybe this is part of the point of the slight absurdity- and eventual tragedy- of this struggle.
Two years go by after she leaves Lope for Horacio, with a tumor in her leg. She's now a cripple, and now once again a kind of mental prisoner in Lope's home; the complexity of old man Lope as being duplicitous is seen right after he finds out she's sick and Horacio asks for Lope to help keep her home, and he nearly skips home saying "she'll never leave again!" All of this, leading up to a final twist that is very satisfying if extending the tragic dimension of Lope and Tristana, would be soapy and tawdry and, possibly, very standard in other hands. For Bunuel, there's a lot of personal ground here; I wonder at times if Rey is a little like one of those actors a director of Bunuel's auteur-stature uses as a means of expressing himself through an actor, or if it's just because he's so good at playing wicked AND sympathetic bourgeois. And the mixture of ideas, if not really themes, covering what's love and over-control, religion, deformity, a free will are potent and exciting even in such subtle and (as Maltin said) serenely filmed territory.
It's also a minor triumph for Deneuve, who between this and Belle de jour did some of her best work as an actress for the notorious surrealist. Her character's continual dream of Lope's beheaded top dangling from a church tower is the closest we see to a classic surrealist scene, though it's reminiscent of Los Olvidados as brilliantly expressing one character's mind-set. Deneuve is up for the challenge of putting up a tough interior and exterior presence; she gets paler towards the end (if this was for real or just a bad print I couldn't tell), and there's a lot of pain in her eyes and expression throughout. It's great work for one of the director's most subtly demanding works- beneath its conventional framework of a love-triangle story is sorrow and horror at the human condition.
Luis Buñuel had a mastery of screen technique attained by very few
directors. Confronted by the script of Tristana, what contemporary
director would know where to start?
Buñuel's attention to detail is extraordinary. Every scene is packed with visual interest. In some strange way, the decor forms an essential part of the structure; it is a facet of Buñuel's unique vision. Moreover, he not only knows exactly when to end a sequence, but how to end it. For instance, when Don Lope (Rey) puts down the dog and walks away, the camera follows not him but the dog: an endearing and brilliant touch, and there are many more. Compelling throughout, even spellbinding.
If this film were a framed picture hanging in a gallery, thousands would come to see it and Buñuel would be acclaimed as a great artist. He was a great artist, in fact, but the cinema is an ephemeral form and people forget. We need to buy the videos and watch these fine movies from time to time, just to remind ourselves that a film can be a significant art form and not merely a commercial product cynically synthesised to extract the largest amount of money from the greatest number of people.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tristana is a Buñuel's film based on Benito Perez Galdos' realist novel
of the same title, what Spaniards call a "novela costumbrista", that
is, an epoch novel that focus on real local customs, social types and
It tells the story of Tristana, a 19y.o. orphan girl, who moves to the house of her legal guardian, Don Lope, a socialist bourgeois womanizer, who becomes not only her father, but also her lover-husband.
The way Buñuel shot the movie is not especially daring or original within Spanish cinema, and, despite what some people say, there is not surrealism in this movie, just some oniric images - two very different things that people mix too often. What makes the movie so interesting is not the realist way in which depicts 19th Spanish society (there are many movies of this sort in Spanish cinema), but how Buñuel approaches and modifies the story to bring out Tristana's dark side. The movie ends exploring the boundaries and limits of the economical, social, and gender orders, and, more importantly, the boundaries between good and evil. The story also shows the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie, that preaches Socialist ideas and criticize wealth and the social order, despite them being wealthy, being part of that system and direct beneficiaries of the order they criticize.
In fact, in Tristana nothing is what it looks like, everything has two sides, there is not good and evil, but good-and-evil. The viewer starts despising and hating that indecent abuser of Don Lope, for his social hypocrisy and his sexual behavior, forgetting that young Tristana, despite despising him, does not oppose or resist his sexual advances, and lives like a princess from his money being as hypocrite as her master. A little intermezzo contains her meeting, love story, and escape with young bohemian painter Horacio. The viewer feels that this should be the end of the movie, the poor girl rescued by pure love. Mistake! - The second part of the movie, shows Tristana's true nature. She is sick and misses Don Lope and his wealth, so she leaves her lover and returns to Don Lope's house, and even marries him; he becomes her carer and dutiful husband. If Don Lope is a monster and treated her so badly why would she want to return to his place? She has soaked in all the preaching of his father-husband and uses them against him; she becomes the tyrant, the intolerant, the abuser, and the one that takes advantage of the old tamed Don Lope, who changes his behavior and customs to suit Tristana's needs and whims. Tristana ends being Don Lope's mirror image in reverse, a product of his teachings, but also a more wicked human being only interested in money, power, and revenge. The viewer ends thinking that nothing is what it looked like, and that both Don Lope and Tristana are connected to the core, identical in a way, evil both of them.
As always, Buñuel is a master at directing actors and creating an homogeneous ensemble of a group of big movie stars. Fernando Rey really nails his role, and offers a convincing range of emotions and behavior, from father to jealous father, from stallion to grandpa, from an open-minded intellectual to a petty tyrant, from funny guy to a jerk. Catherine Denueve is great in a role that suited her acting abilities, and her cold beauty is perfect for Tristana. Lola Gaos is great, as always, in her role of submissive hard-working servant, hard and sweet at the same time. The rest of the cast, which includes Franco Nero, Antonio Casas, and Jesus Fernandez, among many other supporting actors, are also good in their respective roles.
Not the best or most experimental Buñuel's movie, but very intriguing, with terrific performances, that offers an accurate portrait of Spain in the 19th century and explores controversial philosophical themes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes hilarious, often dream like surreal drama tells about a young
woman, heavenly beautiful and innocent in the beginning, bitter and
pitiless but still heavenly beautiful sans one leg in the end.
Catherine Deneuve gave perhaps her best performance as an orphaned 19
years old girl who after her mother's death has been adapted by the
aristocratic free-thinking atheist, Don Lope Garrido in absolutely
fantastic performance by Bunuel's favorite leading man in the latter
half of the director's career, Fernando Rey (That Obscure Object of
Desire, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Tristana, Viridiana).
Don Lope is a man of honor, a gentleman who believes in those of ten
commandments that don't have to do with sex. He also takes pride in
having not worked a day in his life because the only work is noble that
is done "with pleasure". He rather would sell for a fraction of their
real cost the pieces of art that had belonged to his family for
generations. This is the man Tristana comes to live with. Very soon he
would seduce her and make her his mistress justifying it with the words
that she is better off this way than being on the streets. Don Lope is
a preacher of freedom in the relationships between a man and a woman
and for him, "marital bliss has sickly odor". Young Tristana is a good
student and eventually she chooses to leave Don Lope and to run off
with a young and attractive artist (Franco Nero). From this point on,
the movie takes an unexpected and unusual turn...
"Tristana", based on a famous romance novel written by Benito Perez Galdos was adapted by Bunuel into simple on the surface but incredibly rich, complex, funny, in one word, brilliant dissection of moral degradation as only Bunuel could make it. The film is also a portrayal of a strong and beautiful woman who wishes to survive and be independent even if it goes against the established rules of behavior of her time.
P.S. I wonder if Rainer Werner Fassbinder had seen "Tristana" and if he had, would it give him any ideas about his own trilogy of strong, beautiful, independent, and corrupted women trying to survive in the post-war Germany?
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