THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE (1977) : L.Buñuel : 8/10

When I think back today, The Milky Way [1969], The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie [1972] and The Phantom of Liberty [1974] form a kind of trilogy, or rather a triptych. All three have the same themes, sometimes even the same grammar; and all evoke the search for truth, as well as the necessity of abandoning it as soon as you’ve found it. All show the implacable nature of social rituals; and all argue for the importance of coincidence, of a personal morality, and of the essential mystery in all things, which must be maintained and respected.

When I made The Phantom of Liberty, I was seventy-four years old and seriously entertaining the idea of a definitive retirement. My friends, however, had other ideas, so I finally decided to tackle an old project, the adaptation of Pierre Louÿs’ [1870-1925] La femme et le pantin [1898: ‘The Woman and the Puppet’], which in 1977 became That Obscure of Object of Desire, starring Fernando Rey [1917-95]. I used two different actresses, Angela Molina [1955-] and Carole Bouquet [1957-] — a device many spectators never even noticed…
Essentially faithful to the book, I nonetheless added certain elements that radically changed the tone, and although I can’t explain why, I found the final scene very moving–the woman’s hand carefully mending a tear in a bloody lace mantilla. All I can say is that the mystery remains intact right up until the final explosion. In addition to the theme of the impossibility of ever truly possessing a woman’s body, the film insists upon maintaining that climate of insecurity and imminent disaster–an atmosphere we all recognize, because it is our own. Ironically, a bomb exploded on October 16, 1977, in the Ridge Theatre in San Francisco, where the movie was being shown; and during the confusion that followed, four reels were stolen and the walls covered with graffiti like “This time you’ve gone too far!”

Luis Buñuel, My Last Breath (pp249-250), 1982 (translated by Abigail Israel)

Neil Young


Cet obscur objet du désir
104m (BBFC timing)

director : Luis Buñuel (Belle de Jour; The Exterminating Angel; The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, etc)
editor : Hélène Plemiannikov (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; The Phantom of Liberty; Max Mon Amour, etc)

seen 9.Mar.08 Gateshead (Tyneside Cinema :  £5.50)