Combustible Celluloid
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With: Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Álvarez Félix, Hortensia Santoveña, Francisco Reiguera, Luis Aceves Castañeda, Enrique García Álvarez, Antonio Bravo, Enrique del Castillo, Eduardo MacGregor, Jesús Fernández
Written by: Julio Alejandro, Luis Buñuel
Directed by: Luis Buñuel
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 45
Date: 01/01/1965

Simon of the Desert (1965)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Bitter Pillar

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Filmmaker Luis Bunuel made this 45-minute masterpiece on a low budget in Mexico just before making the move to France. Simon (Claudio Brook) stands atop a pillar for years looking for transcendence and the touch of God. Pathetic and twisted denizens visit him, hoping for cures and miracles; when Simon does perform a miracle, the people act selfishly. The devil (sexy Silvia Pinal) continually tries to tempt Simon from behind a variety of disguises. The film's ending -- set in a New York disco to the tune of "Radioactive Flesh" -- was a compromise when Bunuel ran out of money, but it's an unforgettable last scene, true to the director's ironic vision. This is one of my favorite Bunuels, simply because it gets right to the point; he doesn't have time to beat around the bush. It's a scathing damnation of piousness and religion in general -- always funny and never angry -- but it also shows a kind of awe for the mysterious forces of the universe. The great Gabriel Figueroa provided the open-air, black-and-white cinematography.

DVD Details: The Criterion Collection finally released this film on a new DVD, which is a tough sell given that it's basically a short film all by itself. It comes with a documentary about Bunuel's Mexican period, a new interview with Pinal, and an excellent little booklet that includes an interview with Bunuel.

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