Celestine, the chambermaid, has new job on the country. The Monteils, who she works for are a group of strange people. The wife is frigid, her husband is always hunting (both animals and ... See full summary »
A surrealist tale of a man and a woman who are passionately in love with each other, but their attempts to consummate that passion are constantly thwarted by their families, the Church, and bourgeois society.
Caridad de Laberdesque
The ascetic Simón believes he is a sinner and decides to self-inflict a sacrifice, living like a hermit on the top of a pedestal in the middle of the desert to be closer to God and resist the temptations of the world. His followers are peasants and travelers that believe that Simón is a saint capable of performing miracles and they crowd to hear his speeches. However, Satan tries to tempt him with the pleasures of the world.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
After being forced to self-exile by the Spanish Civil War, Spaniard director Luis Buñuel moved to Mexico, and found in the country's struggling film industry the freedom he had so long desired. In the late 50s, and after a decade of making some of the best Mexican movies ever mad, he met Gustavo Alatriste and his wife, actress Silvia Pinal. Alatriste was very interested in Buñuel's cinema and decided to produce Buñuel's movies with Pinal as main actress. This partnership gave Buñuel even more freedom than before, and resulted in three of the most interesting and controversial films of his career. "Viridiana", "El Ángel Extreminador" and this movie, "Simón del Desierto", form a trilogy where Buñuel criticizes mercilessly, but with humor, the hypocrisy of the high society, the government and of course, religion.
Simón (Claudio Brook) is a deep religious man who decided that to be closer to God, he should remain alone in a column, living as an hermit practicing asceticism, in order to escape from the world's temptations. Soon Simón becomes to be regarded as a Saint, and people from all over the region come to hear him speak, and witness his miracles. Satan (Silvia Pinal) visits Simón too, in an attempt to tempt Simón with the earthly pleasures that Simón has decided to leave behind. However, the Devil is probably the lesser of Simón's problems, as his own elitist position as an outsider makes him to discover the truth behind organized religion, and so he begins question the nature of what he does, and more importantly, what he believes.
Written by Luis Buñuel and Julio Alejandro (Buñuel's collaborator in "Nazarín" and "Viridiana"), the story of "Simón del Desierto" is loosely based on the real life story of Saint Simeon Stylites, a monk who like Simón, decided to spent his days at the top of a pillar. "Simon del Desierto" parodies St. Simeon's story in a wonderful satire about the way Saints are seen and venerated by the religious people. Using the character of Simón, Buñuel explores the human side of religion and with a good dose of humor, he completely exposes his views on it, making a sharp criticism not on religion itself, but on religious organizations and their blind and passive followers, who in Buñuel's eyes, become more and more dehumanized the closer they get to God.
In many ways, "Simón del Desierto" works like a slow and fascinating descend into one of Buñuel's surreal nightmares. With a beautiful cinematography by the legendary Gabriel Figueroa, the movie feels initially as a real biopic of the Saint's life, but the portrait of dignity that Buñuel seems to be creating with Simon soon discovers itself as an absurd, as Simón's exaggerated Holiness proves to be as corrupting as the Devil's temptations, and through a series of visions Buñuel breaks the realistic tone and smoothly turns the movie into a surreal madness apparently mimicking the dehumanization of the Saint. The madness concludes in one of Buñuel's most strange finales ever, inviting the audience to make their own conclusions about the movie, and about sainthood.
Claudio Brook and Silvia Pinal are basically the main cast of the film, and their work together is really amazing. A very underrated actor, Brook is very convincing, and very funny too, making Buñuel's character come to life and carrying the film with natural ease and powerful presence. Brook delivers his lines with dignity and power, as if he was really being an actor in a biography of the Saint (Ironically, he would play Jesus in two films after "Simón del Desierto"). Silvia Pinal is very good as the Devil, although not as impressive as she was in "Viridiana", she delivers an excellent performance as the erotic representation of Satan. The supporting cast is very small, and have very limited screen time, but overall they do a good job. Jesús Fernández shines in the small role of a dwarf goatherd who seems to know more than what his humble looks tell.
The movie is probably one of the most interesting films of Buñuel, but at the same time one of the most troubled, as the low budget couldn't allow him better production values. But the worse flaw occurred because in a very unfortunate incident, Alatriste was unable to complete the funding of Buñuel's film, so the director was forced to stop the film's production and make a quick ending. The bizarre finale of the movie is very simplistic and feels horribly rushed; breaking the pace of the story in a very bad way. Still, even when the rushed ending damages the movie a lot, at least it gives an idea of what Buñuel's intentions with the film were.
While the movie was never completed the way Buñuel desired, "Simón del Desierto" is equally as good as the master's better known films, and it also offers the chance to understand the ideology of the man known as "master of surrealism". The excellent performances, Figueroa's beautiful photography and Buñuel's superb direction are definitely the ingredients for a masterpiece, and this modest movie, incomplete as it is, it's definitely one. 8/10
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