Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Simon of the Desert

(Luis Bunuel, 1965)
I am so blessedly ignorant of all cultures of religious faith that Bunuel's Mexican stuff always feels a little beyond me - I'm sure he's referencing specifics that I can't come close to appreciating. On the most obvious level, this parable of a saintly guy standing on a pole is another showcase of the futility of individual saintliness in a wretched world - in my favourite bit he blesses the food in his teeth, but every interaction with his earthbound lessers is a fresh blasphemy, and it's all very funny. It's also impressive that there is no restlessness with the single-location scenario; it keeps moving, thanks in part to the inspired character interactions, and in part to great use of the vertical line of action to change things up. Interestingly, Simon is not exactly a fraud; he actually does perform miracles. Which makes him more tragic than contemptible, in spite of the jokey (and budget-conscious) disco scene at the end, in which he succumbs to the most banal of temptations.

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