BUNUEL ATHEIST THANKS TO GOD (Julien Gaurichon, 2005) ***
This is yet another insightful documentary on the great Surrealist film-maker; the sub-title is a reference to a typically Bunuelian non-sequitur which has become perhaps his most quoted saying. Of course, the director's preoccupation with both God and godlessness can be felt throughout much of his work but it applies most strongly, for obvious reasons, to THE MILKY WAY (1969) his "gleeful put-down of Christian dogma", to steal from my own review of that film. Unfortunately, my very relative quibbles with it being inordinately highbrow and rather obscure is curiously replicated in the documentary as well, since the various speakers tend to over-analyze Bunuel's ultimate intent and his own personal approach to religion (something the director himself would have vehemently disapproved)! As a matter of fact, in his position (being on the outside looking in, so to speak), Bunuel seemed to appreciate better than most the mysteries inherent within Christianity.
Incidentally, the highlight of the special features included in Criterion's DVD of THE MILKY WAY which the documentary under review forms part of is the anecdote told by co-scriptwriter Jean-Claude Carriere in the short introduction to the main feature. The story goes that a group of gypsies went to watch the film during its initial theatrical run every day for a week (despite being unable to understand either dialogue or subtitles!); however, when the manager of that particular cinema (who happened to be Danish director Henning Carlsen, with whom Carriere would collaborate in 1986 on a Paul Gaugin biopic, THE WOLF AT THE DOOR) queried them, out of sheer curiosity, as to the reason behind this 'pilgrimage' what coincidence, given the plot of THE MILKY WAY itself! and even offered to let them in for free, they never came back!! As for Bunuel, he blatantly refused to rationalize the incident while clearly cherishing its singular nature when Carriere told him about it!
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