“Return” can’t be the right word, of course, since Luis Buñuel is always with us, but a few recent republications, in print and on silver discs, does constitute a sort of mini-revival. Knopf has just released a new edition of Buñuel’s autobiography, My Last Sigh, completed a year before the Spanish filmmaker died in 1983. It “contains, as you might expect, few concrete explanations of anything, but countless provisional manifestoes, an index of cinematic inspirations of bewildering range, more anecdotes than any human has a right to own,” writes Anthony Paletta for the Awl. “It is, in any case, a riveting wander in and around Surrealism, cinema and the 20th century itself.”
“Missing in action since, if I recall correctly, a Criterion Laserdisc back in the paleolithic era, Luis Buñuel’s 1970 masterpiece Tristana has reappeared on Blu-ray, in a solid new transfer from the Cohen Film Collection,” writes Dave Kehr at his place. “Apart from a brief dream sequence, it’s a film devoid of any overtly ‘surrealist’ touches, yet every frame achieves a subtly insinuating strangeness—an almost too-perfect clarity that results from Buñuel’s classically balanced compositions, restrained color palate, and impassively even pacing. It may be my favorite of Buñuel’s films, but why choose when there is so much to admire in his magnificent late period, including his final film, the 1977 That Obscure Object of Desire, which has also resurfaced in a new disc from Studio Canal/Lionsgate.”
Reviewing the releases in the New York Times, Kehr notes that “by the time he began his series of late masterworks with Belle de Jour in 1967, he had discovered that the true path to subversion passed not through violence and provocation but through calm and lucidity…. Buñuel had developed a style so rigorously neutral that it became deeply, inimitably personal. The performances are carefully purged of any overtly dramatic emotion. The lighting is almost as bright and even as a television sitcom, banishing any Expressionist shadows. The framing avoids the emotional extremes of both intense close-ups and distant long shots, most often settling into a three-quarter-length view of the actors, cut off at the knees, who often stand side by side as if they were facing a theatrical audience…. We recognize Buñuel’s films as dreams, because they are too realistic to be real.”
As a tribute to Andrew Sarris, Movie has republished the late film critic’s essay on Viridiana (1961), which appeared in the journal’s very first issue in 1962: “How a director who seems so disconcertingly obvious can turn out to be so complex is one of the mysteries of cinema.”
“If Buñuel indeed proscribed to Pascal’s notion of extremities eventually coinciding, as Budd Wilkins suggested in his recent review of That Obscure Object of Desire, then Tristana may be the most of devastating example of the theory,” suggests Jordan Cronk in Slant. Tristana “would prove to be one of his most scathing, personal works.” Josef Braun: “Fascinating, mischievous, elegant, anthropologically alluring… Cohen’s Tristana features several excellent supplements, including two written essays, a video essay, an audio commentary featuring Deneuve and critic Kent Jones, and, my personal favorite—since one must choose favorites—an excerpt from Deneuve’s production journal.”
“Buñuel’s career is pretty expansive, lasting as it did for almost seventy years,” notes the Playlist, “but we’ve picked out ten of his films from across the decades that we believe are the true essentials of his career.” Notes on each follow.
And back in October 2012, Adrian Curry took a look at a wide array of posters for Tristana from around the world.