1001 Flicks

Regularly updated blog charting the most important films of the last 104 years.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

376. Viridiana (1961)

Directed By Luis Buñuel


A young woman is going to become a nun, but before that she goes to visit her old uncle who has financially supported her all her life. Because she resembles his dead wife, he wants to keep her with him forever. When she doesn't agree he commits suicide leaving all his possessions to her and a son he had out of wedlock. She decides to create an auberge for the poor in the uncle's land while his son starts living there. Eventually they leave all the beggars at the property while they have to go to the lawyer or something. The beggars break in to the main house and have a party, leaving a lot of damage behind. Heartbroken, Viridiana loses the will to be charitable and submits to the flesh.


From that synopsis the film does not look particularly shocking, and the same was what the Spanish authorities during the Franco dictatorship thought... but this is Buñuel, a master at showing rather than saying and it is in the visuals that the truly avant-garde stuff happens.

We need to remember that Buñuel was already extremely active during the silent film era, with Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or, for example, so he is no stranger at making the images do the talking. And here is where the blasphemies, lecherousness, transvestism, necrophilia and incestuousness come in. When the uncle dresses his niece up as his dead bride and then drugs her, he puts her hands in place like a corpse and then proceeds to kiss her. While Viridiana takes off her socks the camera stops longingly in her legs, as the beggars blow their chances for a comfortable life in one night of excess they pose as the last supper, when Viridiana tries to milk a cow her hesitating fingers cannot grasp the teats in what is a very phallic moment.

With Buñuel the devil is always in the detail, it cannot be described, the eye of the director is infinitely more important than the written script, and surprisingly it never feels like a gimmick. And this is what has always made him such a great director, and this such a good film.

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

After the film was completed and sent by the Spanish cinematographic authority to the Cannes Film Festival, and awarded, the government of Francisco Franco tried unsuccessfully to have the film withdrawn and banned its release in Spain. L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican, described the film as "blasphemous." The film was released there in 1977, after Franco's death, when Buñuel was seventy-seven years old.

However the film was acclaimed at Cannes, winning the Palme D'Or. Buñuel himself said that "I didn’t deliberately set out to be blasphemous, but then Pope John XXIII is a better judge of such things than I am".



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