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The Milky Way (1969)

La voie lactée (original title)
M/PG | | Comedy, Drama | 15 March 1969 (France)
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.

Director:

Luis Buñuel (as Luis Bunuel)

Writers:

Luis Buñuel (as Luis Bunuel), Jean-Claude Carrière
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Paul Frankeur ... Pierre
Laurent Terzieff ... Jean
Alain Cuny ... L'homme à la cape / Man with cape
Edith Scob ... La Vierge Marie / Virgin Mary
Bernard Verley ... Jésus / Jesus
François Maistre 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 Ellen Bahl ... Madame Garnier
Michel Piccoli ... Le marquis de Sade / The Marquis
Agnès Capri Agnès Capri ... La directrice de l'institution Lamartine / Teacher
Michel Etcheverry Michel Etcheverry ... L'inquisiteur / The Inquisitor
Pierre Clémenti ... L'ange de la mort / The Devil
Georges Marchal ... Le jésuite / The Jesuit
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Storyline

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.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

M/PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

France | Italy

Language:

French | Italian | Latin | Spanish

Release Date:

15 March 1969 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Milky Way See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

Early in the film, as the two pilgrims are on the shoulder of the highway, the shadow of the boom mic is clearly visible moving from right to left across the grass and finally off screen. See more »

Quotes

Rodolphe, un étudiant protestant: Faith doesn't come to us through reason but through the heart
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Ministry of Time: Tiempo de censura (2017) See more »

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User Reviews

 
plenty of scabrous bits of Bunuel's Catholic- and faith-based- criticism and questioning; the parts are much greater than the whole
2 September 2007 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

I might be tempted to call the Milky Way a masterpiece, but for all of the excellent scenes that dance along on the edge of being silly, strange, dead-serious, and scathing in attack, Luis Bunuel doesn't make it quite an easy first viewing. It is, alongside Phantom of Liberty, though maybe more-so considering its picaresque flow, a difficult film to follow at times, as the folds go in and out of the two pilgrims on their way to Compostela as if in an ocean current. We see Jesus and his disciples. We see some 15th (or 4th) century sermons and heretic slayings and practices, sometimes seeming as mystical as something out of the Dark Crystal. And there's even a duel between two sides of the Catholic coin debating between specifics in the nature of god while fencing furiously. It's what could be defined, if one were looking for an easy label, true surrealism, pointed right at the edge of contradictions, of the daring of the random and of chances taken at the expense of all authority be damned, and at the same time it's a drama of fanaticism and faith in general. What is it to believe and actually buy into these guys, who at their most genial are storytellers and at their worst will burn you at the stake for not going for God in threes versus God as one?

Bunuel, at the least for his admirers, makes an attempt with his collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere, to raise questions in the midst of raucous entertainment. Although Bunuel can be even greater when being devilish and playful (eg Discreet Charm), the Milky Way displays the filmmaker reveling in the history and nature of heresy in a construct that's maybe more daring. One truly can't expect what will come next, as one may see a scene with a priest flip-flopping about whether or not the Holy Ghost is in the communion wafer or not (and soon thereafter taken back to the asylum), and then a scene with a rag-tag group of evangelicals in the woods who may or may not be paying heed to God, or to the Devil, or both, or a chef being questioned about how Jesus walked and then a cut-away to how Jesus really walked. As the two pilgrims go along their way, having their own delirious encounters- missing by a bit being struck by lightning, debating Christian free will, one hoping for a car to crash, which does, and then seeing some angel of death or other in the back-seat, and in their continuous streak of being turned away/kicked out by those who would take them in if not for essential hypocrisies- a pattern does start to form (if one could call it that), or at least the essential pieces to Bunuel's puzzle.

A lot of times one laughs at the subtlety and the outrageousness: should Jesus shave, do nuns crucify one another, how much can a priest pontificate about not having sex under any circumstances. But it's actually after the film ends that even more ideas start to come around. And yet Bunuel is so cunning, so deadpan with how he directs the actors- some part of his repertory, some not- that it skims into becoming straight drama, which in that case would make it almost dull; the film actually faced some (un-fair) criticism when first released that Bunuel had suddenly made a film cherishing the things he used to damn. How curious, deranged, and honest even in this part of the appeal, the playing of both sides. While it is fairly well known that Bunuel became an atheist following a strict Catholic upbringing (one quote of his, also the name of a documentary on the Criterion DVD, is "I'm an atheist, thank God"), it's never clear whether Bunuel will take one side or the other. There's things that are f***ed up about those who go without any question at all, like the little girls reciting verbatim on the stage, but also of what the man envisions of revolutionaries shooting the Pope in a firing line.

Even for those who may consider themselves atheists, as Bunuel might have up to a point (like Scorsese, no matter how much can be sort of dropped, there still remains chunks that stay as part of the auteur), and for those who are rigid believers, The Milky Way attempts to open up a discussion of dogma, heresies- many long forgotten before the writers dug them up in research- and why one should even believe if there is no definitive proof. For all of Bunuel's skewering of schizophrenic or quietly sex obsessed priests and moments of pure mystery like the man who first comes to the pilgrims, there is bits of reverence too, like for the Virgin Mary- who at times becomes part of the debate- and it's challenging and refreshing to see nothing left solidly as 'this is this for sure'. If it may feel a little loose an imperfect on a first viewing it shouldn't detract from everything that can be taken away as pure food for Bunuelian thought.


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