Simón del desierto (1965)
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Brilliant. No less impressive though the funding fell through during shooting and Bunuel was forced to rewrite the film from a feature to a 45 minute short overnight... it's still a classic. Pinal is beautiful as ever, and hilariously anarchic as the Devil sent to tempt Simon from his pillar in the desert. A real pleasure and a film that deserves a much wider audience.
I was only familiar with Buñuel's surrealist films, so Simon of the Desert, while an absurdist tragi-comic fable and not a piece of realism, was a nice, more accessible surprise. Buñuel takes the story of a Syrian saint who stood on a column in the desert to show his piety and turns him into a kind of super-Jesus being tempted by Satan, to explore his complicated feelings about Christianity. Through vignettes in the life of Samuel, the film exposes hypocrisies, shows off the absurdity of Jansenism and Biblical literalism, and in its abrupt finale (Buñuel has blamed financial concerns for the film's length, others have said it was originally meant to be part of an anthology that never came to be), shows us why Scripture is inadequate to describe the world, and at the same time, how we're inadequate as interpreters of Scripture. Because that's the thing, as a piece of cinematic blasphemy, it's really very reverent; it's mostly angry at humanity for its false piety. A complex work that I wish were slightly longer.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #21 in TSPDT's Brief Encounters
This movie ranks #486 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #500 in Amos Vogel's Film as a Subversive Art
This movie ranks #525 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #913 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films