New DVDs: Two by Bunuel

simon

From the Criterion Collection, two long unavailable films by Luis Bunuel — “The Exterminating Angel” and “Simon of the Desert” — provide a spiritually appropriate transition to my new home in the Sunday New York Times Arts and Leisure section. That’s me, in the photo above, giving thanks. The web link is here.

110 comments to New DVDs: Two by Bunuel

  • Kent Jones

    Junko, I think Charlie Kaufman has been extremely lucky to have had his scripts directed by people with a sense of humor. I’m glad I made you laugh.

    Tom, I have a feeling that Lynch’s endorsement of the Natural Law platform (“promoting conflict-free politics for a problem-free nation”) is linked to his immersion in Transcendental Meditation. Reagan had some unlikely admirers, including Neil Young – fortunately, he’s a Canadian citizen so he can’t vote. And I remember my consternation in 1984 when Walter Mondale expressed his admiration from the debate platform. That’s when I knew the election was lost.

    Alex, somehow I’ve never gotten to that particular Wood piece. I’ll take a look. I don’t see any facile pessimism in Lynch either. I just see someone endlessly opening the box to see what’s inside and then slamming it shut, opening and slamming, opening and slamming.

  • Kent Jones

    Jean-Pierre, it’s ironic that Desnos broke with the surrealists because of their links to Communism, and 17 years later Eluard broke with them because of his embrace of the party. But I don’t really know the circumstances of Eluard’s departure. I was wondering if you could enlighten me on that point.

  • Arthur S.

    To Kent,

    David Lynch’s transcendentalist beliefs and his conservatism puts him in line with other American film-makers of mystical leanings like Joseph Cornell or King Vidor or non-mystics like John Milius who politically seem confused and contradictory

    He seems to be right wing yet you’d hardly find a more critical and caustic picture of American values than in his films from BLUE VELVET onwards and his MULHOLLAND DR. is one of the most anguished evocations of love from one woman to another done without the whiff of exploitation that you find in most films dealing with lesbianism. And he’s openly avant-garde and is very popular and loved by leftists in Europe.

    My personal issues with Lynch is not so much his politics(which aren’t clear in his films) as rather his tendency to privelege gimmicks over genuine human emotions that is also true of the would-be British Lynch – Peter Greenaway but not with Lynch on the exceptions he finds good scripts and writers.

    Politics is always hard to place in art. Luis Bunuel was surely a leftist and an anarchist, also fellow traveller to Communism but he had a huge gun collection and was reknowned for making his own bullets.

  • Kent Jones

    Arthur S., as you say, politics is hard to place in art. With good reason. A lot of time and energy are spent sussing out the personal politics of filmmakers. Ultimately, it’s all for naught: we’re only interested in them because of the films they’ve made. If David Lynch had never said that he’d voted for Reagan, would any of us have guessed it from watching his movies? I doubt it. In the meantime, most films, great ones and lousy ones alike, seem politically “confused and contradictory,” because most films aren’t made to endorse or illuminate a political platform, and the ones that are made for that purpose are, in the end, not terribly inspiring. Why anyone expects political consistency or clarity from art of all things is beyond me. Just because art engages with politics doesn’t mean it has to be ruled by it. The way it can illuminate the role or the presence of politics in life, or the way it can cynically or productively yoke itself to the feelings generated by a prevalent political belief or platform…a different matter.

    Meanwhile, I don’t get the “critical and caustic picture of American values” side of Lynch. There’s a genuine horror of the exploitation of women in his work, but I don’t know what qualifies that exploitation as specifically American. In the meantime, you might take another look at THE STRAIGHT STORY.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Kent: I think it was more a drifting away than a breaking.The war-time and post-war-time Eluard was a very different person than the Eluard of the twenties and early-to-mid thirties. There was very little in his writings and activities of the forties and fifties that you could really call surrealist. He had become very much like Aragon, whom he had despised so much in 1930!

  • Kent Jones

    And forgive me for pursuing this line of inquiry, but did Eluard and Desnos cross paths in the resistance

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘Why anyone expects political consistency or clarity from art of all things is beyond me. Just because art engages with politics doesn’t mean it has to be ruled by it. The way it can illuminate the role or the presence of politics in life, or the way it can cynically or productively yoke itself to the feelings generated by a prevalent political belief or platform…a different matter.’

    Yes, that is exactly true. Real art even if dictaited by authorities doesn’t become simple propaganda (I am thinking of some great Japanese movies that was controlled by goverment during war time.)

    ‘The war-time and post-war-time Eluard was a very different person than the Eluard of the twenties and early-to-mid thirties. There was very little in his writings and activities of the forties and fifties that you could really call surrealist.’

    Eluard was not the great poet after leaving Surrealism. I can tell this even from reading translation in completely different language like Japanese (I have tried to read in French too, but missing nuance of French language.)

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    Junko: You’re right. The more Eluard became involved in political/social activities, the more banal and un-surrealistic his poetry grew. In 1949 L’HUMANITE published his Ode to Stalin, one of the most ridiculous pieces of verse ever written by a major poet (samples: “Trust is the fruit of his loving brain” … “Thanks to him we live without fear of autumn/Stalin’s horizon is forever reborn…” — my translation, and not much is lost!) After the war he became the only “famous” French poet (with Prevert)of the twentieth century. Huge crowds came out for his funeral…

    Kent, I don’t know about Desnos and Eluard during the Occupation, especially in the Resistance. I doubt that they operated in the same areas, but I really don’t know much about Desnos’activities then…. The remarkable thing about Eluard was that he was very active both underground and above — he published at least seven books of poetry between 1942-45, plus a lot of writing in the clandestine LETTRES FRANCAISES.

  • alex

    Josh Krauter,

    Thanks for correcting my characterization of Lynch as Republican, one I picked up from a French press report on some Cannes festival of few years ago when Lynch chaired one of the awards committees.

    When I want the likes of “Republican” to mean Right-wing or reactionary, terms I don’t believe I’ve used Re Lynch, I tend (as, for example, a grade school distributer of “I Like Ike” buttons) to write ReBUBlican.

  • Kent Jones

    Thanks, Jean-Pierre.

    Somehow I missed Josh Krauter’s post when I wrote mine about Lynch. It’s not at all surprising.