Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Simon of the Desert (1965)

After spending six years six weeks and six days on top of a column in the desert he is graced with a new, higher one by a rich follower. That's when the devil shows up to tempt him...

This is the final film Bunuel made in Mexico and it’s an amusing doodle. Running a scant 45 minutes the film, according to material on the Criterion Collection edition, was originally intended as a feature film however the financing never came through and what we see is all they were able to shoot. The odd running time worked against the film getting much in the way of screenings, however it didn’t hurt its critical acclaim.

I am kind of shocked that I like the film as much as do, since I am not a particularly Bunuel fan. While I like most of his films I’m kind of at a loss to explain why he has such a huge reputation with his ideas being better than the films as wholes. Take Exterminating Angel, where a group of upper class people at a dinner party find they can’t leave. The idea is wonderful, and the execution is good, but somehow I always felt the film fell short of the true greatness of the idea.

To me the film is one of the best films Bunuel made because it is forced to do what it has to do and get off. The jabs at religion or at society’s hypocrisy and insanity work better than in some of the directors other films simply because they can’t be over done, there simply isn't time. I’m constantly amused by the notion of how a taller column is a better column, or how Simon is considered a holy man just because he’s loopy enough to stand on top of one for years at a time. I also like that while the film is serious and funny, the prodding is more playful than in some of his other films. There isn’t a strident need to preach, its more Bunuel saying “you do realize how silly this is?” to a friend instead of trying to win a convert by beating them over the head.

Ultimately the best thing I can say is it made me laugh.

Worth tracking down

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