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The Milky Way (1969)
"La voie lactée" (original title)

M  -  Comedy | Drama  -  15 March 1969 (France)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 3,969 users  
Reviews: 23 user | 25 critic

Two drifters go on a pilgrimage from France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Along the way, they hitchhike, beg for food, and face the Christian dogmas and heresies from different Ages.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Frankeur ...
Laurent Terzieff ...
Alain Cuny ...
L'homme à la cape / Man with cape
Bernard Verley ...
Jésus / Jesus
François Maistre ...
Le curé fou / French Priest
Claude Cerval ...
Le brigadier / Brigadier
Muni ...
La mère supérieure / Mother Superior
Julien Bertheau ...
Richard 'maître d'hôtel' / Maitre d'Hotel
Ellen Bahl ...
Madame Garnier
Agnès Capri ...
La directrice de l'institution Lamartine / Teacher
Michel Etcheverry ...
L'inquisiteur / The Inquisitor
Pierre Clémenti ...
Georges Marchal ...
Le jésuite / The Jesuit


Two drifters go on a pilgrimage from France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Along the way, they hitchhike, beg for food, and face the Christian dogmas and heresies from different Ages.

Add Full Plot | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

vagabond | religion | surrealism | nun | bible | See more »


Comedy | Drama


M | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

15 March 1969 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The Milky Way  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to his autobiography, _My Last Sigh_, Luis Buñuel got the idea of making the film after reading _Historia de los heterodoxos españoles_ by Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo. See more »


During the seen with the "free love" Catholics in the forest, the wide angle shots are taken during the day, while the close-ups and medium shots are clearly not during the day. See more »


Featured in Speaking of Bunuel (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Simply By Taking the Catholic View of History and Heresies, Bunuel Has Created a Work of Surrealism.
17 March 2009 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

It's not a film that has all the answers. It's a film that casts doubt on all the answers we've had. Early in the film we hear the line, "A religion without mystery is not a religion at all. A heresy that denies a mystery can attract the weak and the shallow, but can never blot out the truth." My ears perked up. I was keenly interested in a film that was going to confront both religion and its opposition head on.

Two modern-day travelers are on the road as the film opens, from Paris to Spain. It's the customary episodic framework of the poor enduring as transient vagabonds feeling purpose in heading in a particular direction. It's also the even more customary fable of the wandering adventurer and his companion in search of revelation and virtue. Spanish-born absurdist filmmaker Luis Bunuel juxtaposes these narrative customs into a sort of cinematic reality existing in a unique dimension. The pilgrims are contemporary but time and space chaperon them in a continual instant and an all-encompassed earth science.

The protagonists of blasphemy and tradition portray their ideals in age-old Palestine, in the Europe of the Middle Ages, in the Age of Reason, and in today's hotels and fashionable restaurants, and on its boulevards. The Holy Virgin, her son Jesus and his young brothers, an arrogant ecclesiastical headwaiter and his submissive workers, a bleeding child by the roadside, the pope facing a firing squad, the Whore of Babylon ambushing ramblers, the Marquis de Sade, the Jansenist fencing with the Jesuit, Satan himself decked out as a rock star, an overzealously formal schoolmarm and her programmed little students chanting anathemas, self-righteous bishops and demented priests on the lam, this panoramic cast of characters, in itself a smirking take-off of Hollywood's epic ensembles, somehow expresses the barren conceptions of Christian dissent. Is there such a thing as the Holy Trinity? Was Christ God, man, and Holy Ghost one after the other, at the same time, or was he invariably just God the Father disguised as a human, so as to be seen? Was Jesus solely the mortal embodiment of a supreme spirit? Was his anguish then just facade? Because if he experienced pain at the hands of mortals, was he a god? Was Christ merely a smidgen of God's psyche? Are we free to discern between the exploits of Jesus the man and the teachings of Christ the god? Was Christ indeed two men, one born of God the Father, the other of Mary the Mother? Did Mary become pregnant in the same manner that light exceeds through a window glass? Did Jesus have brothers?

As Buñuel conceives visual substance to these religious contemplations, he does so with far- flung ability in banter and farce. The escaped lunatic believes that Christ is in the host like the rabbit is in the pâté. The pope's death by firing squad is something we'll never see. The debate of doctrine by the hostile maître d' and his waiters is in the royal practice of slapstick comedy. The dueling clerics clanking swords for Jesuitical piety and Jansenistic sin are a comic rendition of the vintage MGM swashbuckling jousts pared down to knowingly meaningless and irrational argument.

However, side by side with the broad comical tone, Buñuel is here tussling with the inconsistencies between faith and faithlessness. The young heretic who dons the hunter's garb and shoots at the rosary receives it back from the hands of the Virgin Mary and lets tears cascade down his heretical face. Really, as Pierre tells Jean when lightning strikes, God knows all, but we don't know what he knows. Buñuel apparently favored scenes which could just be pieced together by the ends in the editing room, producing long, mobile wide shots which follow the action. He aggregates all of these significations and implications into a streaming, uninterrupted visual existence recognizing the curious obscurities of both the comformists to the approved form of Christianity and the professed believers who nonetheless maintain contrary theologies and reject church-prescribed doctrines, while prosecuting the dogmatic certitudes of both. How else could you do it? It's a concept for a film that could only befit a surrealist.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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