In an interview to magazine "Telerama", Jean Sorel said that although he did not get along well with director Luis Bunuel during the filming of "Belle de Jour" in 1967 , he offered to him the role of Jesus in "la voie lactée" .But Jean Sorel turned it down because, at this time, he had an assignment for a movie in Italy. See more »
During the scene 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 »
In view of its subject matter the gleeful put-down of Christian dogma, a lot of which is contradictory anyway (explaining the flood of religious sects we have all suffered from!) this has always been the one Bunuel film that is perhaps hardest to warm up to; more than any other of the director's work, its relentlessly didactic nature requires one's full attention throughout and, needless to say, the experience can be somewhat daunting (it's definitely not the ideal choice for a beginner!). However, THE MILKY WAY is still a milestone in the Surrealist director's career: his previous effort, the chic and sexy BELLE DE JOUR (1967), had performed exceptionally well at the box-office hence, Bunuel was given carte blanche on the next one; typically, he responded by delivering that which, on the surface, amounts to the exact opposite of what was expected of him: a distinctly uncommercial venture!
That said, one can't very well overlook the director's approach to the material: it takes the form of a picaresque odyssey dealing with two men's pilgrimage from France to the burial site of a revered saint in Spain, and their many bizarre adventures along the way; Paul Frankeur and Laurent Terzieff appear in the lead roles. They meet scores of people who either help, hinder or simply baffle them a few of these are actually historical figures (such as the Marquis De Sade, incarnated by Michel Piccoli) or even symbolic ones (say, Pierre Clementi's brooding Satan); most, however, are clergy (even if one proves to be a fugitive from a lunatic asylum!) or common people with a vested interest in Theology (for instance, the maitre d' played by Julien Bertheau who, after imparting much spiritual wisdom to his 'congregation', denies food to the weary protagonists)!
The journey is interestingly book-ended by the duo's meeting with, first, a man (Alain Cuny) who predicts they will each have a child and, then, a whore (Delphine Seyrig) who offers herself up for the task; what ties the two scenes together is that both strangers supply the same cryptic names to the proposed offsprings i.e. "Ye Are Not Of The People" and "No More Mercy"! Incidentally, the film's episodic structure would be adopted again by Bunuel (indeed, it's improved upon) in two subsequent films both sublime and uproarious namely THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE (1972) and THE PHANTOM OF LIBERTY (1974); in fact, one could say that these three films comprise a trilogy whose loosely interrelated narratives (in which, literally, anything goes) basically encompass all of Bunuel's many and varied concerns over the years. THE MILKY WAY is certainly the most intellectual of the director's works, but it's all stylishly deployed (he'd retain the deceptively glossy look of BELLE DE JOUR, for which some would subsequently accuse him of selling out[!], throughout all his remaining efforts) and undeniably hilarious for those not offended by blasphemous irreverence.
Some more of the film's indelible images involve: Frankeur thinking of himself as Jesus about to shave off the trademark beard and being dissuaded from doing so by Mary (Edith Scob); Bernard Verley, then, is endearing as a thoroughly commonplace (if snobbish) Christ his chilling last words (taken from St. Matthew's Gospel), that he came to cause discord within the family unit and that woe befall anyone who loves somebody else more than him, must constitute one of the most wicked finales to any film!; Terzieff's casual swearword costing them a lift by an ultra-conservative driver; his own jinxed nature (wishing a man who has bypassed them to die horribly in a road accident, which happens soon after), ditto when daring God to strike him with lightning and being amazed by the practically instant reply from on high; later, during a school activity in which little children are indoctrinated in religious intolerance, Terzieff also loudly imagines a group of revolutionaries (the events of May '68 were still vivid in people's minds) executing the Pope played by Bunuel himself! via firing squad. Incidentally, the director's own voice is heard reciting a prayer in Latin! on the radio of the aforementioned burning car; in the same vein, co-scriptwriter Jean-Claude Carriere a regular Bunuel collaborator makes an infrequent appearance before the cameras as a decadent bishop presiding over an orgy in the forest (another sequence that is exclusively in Latin). Two more stalwart presences from the Surrealist master's canon are Claudio Brook, playing another high-ranking church official exhuming the body of the saint to whom our heroes (and, we are told, thousands every year) have come from afar to pay tribute so as to excommunicate him in view of facts which have only just come to the fore(!), and Georges Marchal, seen dueling for his steadfast beliefs, but the point of the discussion is so muddled that it's soon forgotten by the participants by the way, a crucified nun is also prominently featured in this scene! For the record, this film contains one of Bunuel's most famous dictums (spoken by an undefined character during a transcendental sermon by a particularly insistent priest), namely "My hatred of Science and Technology almost brings me to the absurdity of a belief in God"!
According to the extras on the Criterion DVD (these include an elaborate trailer, an introduction by Carriere, an interesting interview with noted film critic Ian Christie, and a 37-minute featurette which is given its due elsewhere), the conception for the script came at the 1967 Venice Film Festival after a screening of Jean-Luc Godard's LA CHINOISE, the Nouvelle Vague exponent's full-blown induction into the realm of Political Cinema. Incidentally, it's also said here that THE MILKY WAY garnered the best reviews of Bunuel's entire career!
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