Simon of the Desert (The Criterion Collection)

For a quick and delightful introduction to Buñuel, you can’t go wrong with Simon of the Desert

April 8th, 2011 by Wayward Muse
Rating: Genres: , Featured Actors: Actors: Antonio Bravo, Claudio Brook, Eduardo MacGregor, Enrique Alvarez Felix, Enrique del Castillo, Enrique Garcia Alvarez, Francisco Reiguera, Hortensia Santovena, Luis Aceves Castaneda Featured Directors: Movements: Languages:
Simon of the Desert

Never finished because of financial and other issues, Simon of the Desert is only 45 minutes long. This film explores one of the recurring themes of Bunuel’s work: his ambivalence; his almost reverent irreverence towards God and religion. Simon is a disciple of Saint Simeon Stylites, an historical Syrian ascetic. He emulates his namesake by fasting, enduring other ascetic trials, and lecturing from atop his pillar. The film takes a little time to really get going, but the payoff of a little patience is greatly rewarded.

Simon of the Desert is from the height of Buñuel’s Mexican period, one of three masterpieces he made with the delightful actress Silvia Pinal, which also includes Exterminating Angel and Viridiana. While I enjoyed the movie immensely, what really stands out is Pinal’s portrayal of the Devil; she literally steals the movie. Even if you aren’t particularly a fan of Buñuel or surrealism, watching Pinal tempt Simon is a rare treat. The closing scene in the Manhattan discotheque where Silvia tells Simon that the song is called “Radioactive Flesh” and he must listen to it until “the end” of time is a lively, sexy wonder, and extremely ironic since Buñuel is said to have despised Rock music, but most modern viewers will find the scene delectable and fun, rather than at all tormenting.

One of the least surrealistic and most accessible of Buñuel’s films. For Buñuel fans there is also a good documentary in the extras about his Mexican period.

Or just enjoy the delightful Silvia in the discotheque for a quickie:

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