Luis Buñuel


Luis Buñuel

Infobox Actor
bgcolour = silver
name = Luis Buñuel
birthname = Luis Buñuel Portolés


birthdate = 22 February 1900
location = Calanda, Teruel, Aragón, Spain
deathdate = 29 July 1983 (aged age|1900|2|22|1983|7|29)
deathplace = Mexico City, Mexico
spouse = Jeanne Buñuel (1925 - his death)
yearsactive = (1929-1977)
academyawards = Best Foreign Language Film
1972 "Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie"
baftaawards = Best Screenplay
1972 "Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie"

Luis Buñuel Portolés (22 February 1900 – 29 July 1983) was a Spanish-born filmmaker and naturalized Mexican who worked mainly in Mexico and France, but also in his native Spain and in the United States. He is considered one of Mexico's finest directors, and one of the most important directors in the history of cinema.

Biography

Life

Buñuel was born in Calanda, province of Teruel in the autonomous community of Aragón, Spain. His parents were Leonardo Buñuel and María Portolés; he had two brothers, Alfonso and Leonardo, and four sisters, Alicia, Concepción, Margarita and María. He had a strict Jesuit education at the Colegio del Salvador in Zaragoza from which he was expelled. Later he went to university in Madrid. While studying at the University of Madrid (current-day Universidad Complutense de Madrid) he became a very close friend of painter Salvador Dalí and poet Federico García Lorca, among other important Spanish artists living in the Residencia de Estudiantes. Buñuel first studied the natural sciences and agronomy, then engineering, but later switched to philosophy. In 1925, he moved to Paris where he began work as a secretary in an organization called the "International Society of Intellectual Cooperation". He later found work in France as a director's assistant to Jean Epstein on "Mauprat" and Mario Nalpas on "La Sirène des Tropiques" and he co-wrote and then filmed a 16-minute short film "Un chien andalou" (1929) with Dalí. This film, featuring a series of startling and sometimes horrifying images of Freudian nature (such as what appears to be the slow slicing of a woman's eyeball with a razor blade) was enthusiastically received by French surrealists of the time, and continues to be shown regularly in film societies to this day.

He followed this with "L'Âge d'or" (1930), partly based on the Marquis de Sade's "120 Days of Sodom". The film was begun as a second collaboration with Dalí but became Buñuel's solo project after a falling-out they had before filming began. During this film he worked around his technical ignorance by filming mostly in sequence and using nearly every foot of film that he shot. "L'Âge d'or" was read to be an attack on Catholicism, and thus, precipitated an even larger scandal than "Un chien andalou". The right-wing press criticized the film and the police placed a ban on it that lasted 50 years.

Following "L'Âge d'or", Buñuel returned to Spain and directed "" ("Land Without Bread", 1933), a documentary on peasant life. This was a convulse period which led, in 1936, to the Spanish Civil War. The times were changing quickly and Buñuel could see that someone with his political and artistic sensibilities would have no place in a fascist Spain. He co-wrote and produced a documentary short about the changing political climes in Spain entitled "España 1936".

In the United States

After the Spanish Civil War, Buñuel was exiled and moved to the United States. Buñuel moved to Hollywood to capitalize on the short-lived fad of producing completely new foreign-language versions of hit films for sales abroad. After Buñuel worked on a few Spanish-language remakes, the industry eventually turned instead to re-dubbing of dialogue. He then left Hollywood for New York, getting a job at the Museum of Modern Art (where he re-edited a shorter version of Leni Riefenstahl's documentary on Hitler, "Triumph of the Will").

In his autobiography, "The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí" (1942), Dalí suggested that he had split with Buñuel because the latter was a Communist and an atheist. Buñuel was fired (or resigned) from MOMA, supposedly after Cardinal Spellman of New York went to see Iris Barry, head of the film department at MOMA. Buñuel then went back to Hollywood where he worked in the dubbing department of Warner Brothers from 1942 to 1946. In his 1982 autobiography " [My Last Breath] ", Buñuel wrote that he submitted a treatment to Warners about a disembodied hand which was later adapted into "The Beast with Five Fingers" (1946) with Peter Lorre. Buñuel also wrote that, over the years, he rejected Dalí's attempts at reconciliation.

In 1972, Buñuel, along with his screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and producer Serge Silberman, was invited by George Cukor to his house. This gathering was particularly memorable and other invitees included Alfred Hitchcock, Rouben Mamoulian, Robert Mulligan, George Stevens, Billy Wilder, Robert Wise and William Wyler. [ [http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/cukor_g.html "American Masters: George Cukor"] ]

Mexican era

Buñuel arrived in Mexico in 1946 and got Mexican citizenship in 1949. The first film he directed there was the "Gran Casino" (1946), produced by Oscar Dancigers. Buñuel found the plot boring and it was not hugely successful. He later again collaborated with Dancigers in creating "El Gran Calavera" (1949), a successful film starring Fernando Soler. As Buñuel himself has stated, he learned the techniques of directing and editing while shooting "El Gran Calavera". Its success at the box office encouraged Dancigers to accept the production of a more ambitious film for which Buñuel, apart from writing the script, had complete freedom to direct. The result was his critically acclaimed "Los Olvidados" (1950), which was recently considered by UNESCO as part of the world's cultural heritage. "Los Olvidados" (and its triumph at Cannes) made Buñuel an instant world celebrity and the most important Spanish-speaking film director in the world.

Buñuel spent most of his later life in Mexico, where he directed 21 films. Those films included:
* "Él" (1953)
* "Ensayo de un crimen" (The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz) (1955)
* "Nazarín" (1959) (based on a novel by Spain's Benito Pérez Galdós, and adapted by Buñuel to a Mexican context)
* "Viridiana" (1961) (coproduction Mexico-Spain and winner at Cannes)
* "El Ángel Exterminador" (The Exterminating Angel) (1962)
* "Simón del desierto" (Simon of the Desert) (1965).

French era

After the golden age of the Mexican film industry ended, Buñuel started to work in France along with Silberman and Carrière. During this "French Period", Buñuel directed some of his best-known works: "Le Journal d'une femme de chambre" ("Diary of a Chambermaid"), free adaptation of the famous Octave Mirbeau's novel "Le journal d'une femme de chambre" ; "Belle de Jour" ; "Cet obscur objet du désir" ("That Obscure Object of Desire") ; and "Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie" ("The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie") - as well as some lesser-known films such as "The Phantom of Liberty" and "La Voie lactée" ("The Milky Way").

After the release of "Cet obscur objet du désir" (1977) he retired from film making, and wrote (with Carrière) an autobiography, "Mon Dernier Soupir" ("My Last Sigh"), published in 1982, which provides an account of Buñuel's life, friends, and family as well as a representation of his eccentric personality. In it he recounts dreams, encounters with many well known writers, actors, and artists such as Pablo Picasso and Charlie Chaplin, and antics such as dressing up as a nun and walking around town. As one might deduce from these antics, Buñuel was famous for his atheism. In a 1960 interview with Michele Manceaux in "L'Express", Buñuel famously declared: "I am still, thank God, an atheist."

Buñuel almost seemed to repudiate this statement in a 1977 article in "The New Yorker". "I'm not a Christian, but I'm not an atheist, either", he said. "I'm weary of hearing that accidental old aphorism of mine, 'I'm an atheist, thank God.' It's outworn. Dead leaves. In 1951, I made a small film called "Mexican Bus Ride", about a village too poor to support a church and a priest. The place was serene, because no one suffered from guilt. It's guilt we must escape from, not God."

He married Jeanne Rucar in a town hall in Paris in 1934 and they remained married throughout his life. His sons are Rafael and Juan Luis Buñuel. Diego Buñuel, filmmaker and host of the National Geographic Channel's "Don't Tell my Mother I am in..." series, is his grandson.

He died in Mexico City in 1983.

urrealism

Buñuel's films were famous for their surreal imagery; they include scenes in which chickens populate nightmares, women grow beards, and aspiring saints are desired by luscious women. Even in the many movies he made for hire (rather than for his own creative reasons), such as "Susana", "Robinson Crusoe", and "The Great Madcap", he always added his trademark of disturbing and surreal images. Running through his own films is a backbone of surrealism; Buñuel's world is one in which an entire dinner party suddenly finds themselves inexplicably unable to leave the room and go home, a bad dream hands a man a letter which he brings to the doctor the next day, and where the devil, if unable to tempt a saint with a pretty girl, will fly him to a disco. An example of a more Dada influence can be found in "Cet obscur objet du désir", when Mathieu closes his eyes and has his valet spin him around and direct him to a map on the wall.

Buñuel never explained or promoted his work. On one occasion, when his son was interviewed about "The Exterminating Angel", Buñuel instructed him to give facetious answers; for example, when asked about the presence of a bear in the socialites' house, Buñuel "fils" claimed it was because his father liked bears. Similarly, the several repeated scenes in the film were explained as having been put there to increase the running time.

Religious influence

Many of his films were openly critical of middle class morals and organized religion, mocking the Roman Catholic Church for hypocrisy. Many of his most famous films demonstrate this:

* "Un chien andalou" (An Andalusian Dog, 1929) -- A man drags pianos, upon which are piled two dead donkeys, two priests, and the tablets of The Ten Commandments.
* "L'Âge d'or" (The Golden Age, 1930) -- A bishop is thrown out a window, and in the final scene one of the culprits of the "120 days of Sodom" is portrayed by an actor dressed in a way that he would be recognized as Jesus.
* "Ensayo de un crimen" (The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz, 1955) -- A man dreams of murdering his wife while she's praying in bed dressed all in white.
* "Simón del desierto" (Simon of the Desert , 1965) -- The devil tempts a saint by taking the form of a bare-breasted girl singing and showing off her legs. At the end of the film, the saint abandons his ascetic life to hang out in a jazz club.
* "Nazarin" (1959) -- The pious lead character wreaks ruin through his attempts at charity.
* "Viridiana" (1961) -- A well-meaning young nun tries unsuccessfully to help the poor. Also there is is a scene in the film as The Last Supper "(of Leonardo Da Vinci)".
* "La Voie Lactée" (1969) -- Two men travel the ancient pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela and meet embodiments of various heresies along the way. One dreams of anarchists shooting the Pope. The story of the making of "Viridiana" is illustrative. Buñuel's earlier Spanish and French films from the 1930s were regarded as cinema landmarks -- "Un Chien Andalou", "L'Âge d'or", and "Las Hurdes" (also known as "Tierra sin Pan" or "Land Without Bread") (1933). The advent of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, however, caused the expatriation of many artists and intellectuals from the fascist dictatorship of Franco, whose military revolt and rise to power had had the strong backing of the Spanish Catholic hierarchy.

Had Buñuel stayed in Spain, his fate might have been the same as that of his friend, poet Federico García Lorca, who was assassinated at the outset of Franco's military revolt. After some years of artistic silence forced by the difficult circumstances of his expatriation, Buñuel, then residing in Mexico, returned in full force to writing and directing with some of his best films, which once more won him international acclaim.

In 1960, for political propaganda reasons, Franco instructed his minister of culture to invite the country's most famous filmmaker to return to Spain to direct a film of his choice. Buñuel accepted and proceeded to make "Viridiana", promptly departing from the country after finishing the film, but leaving a few official copies. After viewing them, the copies were burned by the dictator's authorities. The minister of culture was reprimanded for having passed the screenplay in the first place. A copy of "Viridiana", however, had been smuggled to France, where it proceeded to win the Palme D'Or of the Cannes International Film Festival. The film was banned in Spain, but got international attention and praise (with some exceptions). The Vatican's official press organ, "l'Osservatore Romano", published an article calling "Viridiana" an insult not only to Catholicism, but to Christianity itself.

tyle and technique

Buñuel's style of directing was extremely economical. He shot films in a few weeks, never deviating from his script and shooting in order as much as possible to minimize editing time. He told actors as little as possible, and limited his directions mostly to physical movements ("move to the right", "walk down the hall and go through that door", etc.). He often refused to answer actors' questions and was known to simply turn off his hearing aid on the set; though they found it difficult at the time, many actors who worked with him acknowledged later that his approach made for fresh and excellent performances.

Buñuel preferred scenes which could simply be pieced together end-to-end in the editing room, resulting in long, mobile, wide shots which followed the action of the scene. Examples are especially present in his French films. For example, at the restaurant / ski resort in "Belle de jour", Séverin, Pierre, and Henri are conversing at a table. Buñuel cuts away from their conversation to two young women who walk down a few steps and proceed through the restaurant, passing behind Séverin, Pierre, and Henri, at which point the camera stops and the young women walk out of frame. Henri then comments on the women and the conversation at the table progresses from there.

Buñuel disliked non-diegetic music, and avoided it in his films, though traditional drums from Calanda sound in most of his films. The films of his French era were not scored and some ("Belle de jour", "Diary of a Chambermaid") contain absolutely no music whatsoever. "Belle de Jour" does, however, feature (potentially) non-diegetic sound effects, believed by some to be clues as to whether or not the current scene is a dream.

Trivia

*Was voted the 14th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly
*Praised by Alfred Hitchcock as the best director ever
*Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1954
*Liked to play tricks to his friends and, in Mexico, one of his favorite victims was the Spanish screenwriter Luis Alcoriza. During a hunting party, Alcoriza saw an eaglet on a tree and knocked it down with the first shot but then he found a price tag on a paw: it was a stuffed bird put there by Buñuel

Awards and nominations

Luis Buñuel was given the Career Golden Lion in 1982 by the Venice Film Festival and the FIPRESCI Prize - Honorable Mention in 1969 by the Berlin Film Festival.

* "Los olvidados" (1950)
**Cannes Film Festival Prix de la mise en scène Winner (Best Director)
* "Subida al cielo" (1952)
**Cannes Film Festival Official Selection
* "El" (1953)
**Cannes Film Festival Official Selection
* "Nazarín" (1959)
**Cannes Film Festival International Prize Winner
* "The Young One" (1960)
**Cannes Film Festival Special Mention Winner
* "Viridiana" (1961)
**Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Winner
* "El ángel exterminador" (1962)
**Cannes Film Festival Official Selection
* "Simón del desierto" (1965)
**Venice Film Festival Special Jury Prize Winner
**Venice Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize Winner
* "Belle de jour" (1967)
**Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Winner
**Venice Film Festival Pasinetti Award Winner
* "La Voie Lactée" (1969)
**Berlin Film Festival Interfilm Award Winner
* "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972)
**Academy Awards Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

Filmography

References


* [http://www.digitalrailroad.net/enzodalverme/Production/PhotoGroupView.aspx?pbid=4&msa=1&pgid=7867013 Diego Buñuel]

Bibliography

* [http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/Bunuelbib.html Bunuel Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)]
* [http://www.1worldfilms.com/luis_bunuel.htm Buñuel biography]
* Koller, Michael. [http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/cteq/01/12/chien.html "Un Chien Andalou"] . "senses of cinema" January 2001. Retrieved on 26 July 2006.
*López, Ignacio Javier. "The Old Age of William Tell (A study of Buñuel's "Tristana")". "MLN" 116 (2001): 295–314.

External links

*imdb name|id=0000320|name=Luis Buñuel
* [http://www.sensesofcinema.com/contents/directors/05/bunuel.html Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database]
* [http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=2:83516 AllMovie Guide]
* [http://www.theyshootpictures.com/bunuelluis.htm They Shoot Pictures, Don't They?]
* [http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/MRC/youngone.html No Blacks or Whites: The Making of Luis Bunuel's The Young One]
* [http://www.criterion.com/asp/release.asp?id=102&eid=116&section=essay The Discreet Charm of Luis Bunuel - Article]
* [http://www.regent.edu/acad/schcom/rojc/papciak.html Thank God I'm an atheist: The surrealistic cinema of Luis Bunuel]
* [http://zakka.dk/euroscreenwriters/screenwriters/jean-claude_carriere.htm Interview with Jean-Claude Carriere - Bunuel's screenwriter and friend]
* [http://www.adherents.com/people/pb/Luis_Bunuel.html The Religious Affiliation of Luis Buñuel]
* [http://www.peanut.org/mike/text/bunuel.htm The Indiscreet Charms of Luis Buñuel - Article]
* [http://www.cbcvirtual.com BUÑUEL'S CALANDA CENTRE]
*findagrave|6946038


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