Date: 17 April 2014
Title: The Exterminating Angel
Director: Luis Bunuel
Language: Spanish (English Subtitles)
Duration: 95 minutes
Synopsis: (Adapted from the Criterion article above) - By Marsha Kinder
Luis Buñuel’s ferociously brilliant The Exterminating Angel (1962) is one of his most provocative and unforgettable works. In it we watch a trivial breach of etiquette transform into the destruction of civilization. Not only does this story undermine our confidence in our social institutions but it challenges our powers of cognition and perception, which are shown to be easily distorted by unreliable narratives. Perhaps most threatening, despite the emotional distance from the characters that Buñuel’s satiric vision grants us, we are ultimately forced to see that we in the audience are also objects of his attack.
The plot is easy to summarize, though the characters’ motivations remain mysterious. Buñuel describes it as “the story of a group of friends who have dinner together after seeing a play, but when they go into the living room after dinner, they find that for some inexplicable reason they can’t leave.” For equally inexplicable reasons, after preparing dinner for the guests, all but one of the servants feel compelled to flee the mansion. Trapped in the living room, the guests soon begin to panic. The narrative places us in the same position as the guests, puzzling over why they can’t leave, how they might escape, and what it all means.
Buñuel made this daring film at the end of his eighteen years in Mexico, and it was his only work from that period on which he had complete artistic freedom. In 1946, when he was hired by Russian émigré producer Oscar Dancigers to direct a film in Mexico, Buñuel was already a middle-aged man with a wife and two sons and no job. Though on the verge of getting his American citizenship, he had just been fired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art for allegedly being a communist. He moved his family to Mexico and, from 1946 until 1964, made twenty films within the commercial industry, all on small budgets, tight shooting schedules, and with other constraints.
The Exterminating Angel was another story, however, a more personal work, coming at a key point in Buñuel’s career, right before his final return to Paris and immediately following the scandalous reception of Viridiana (1961), his first film made in Spain (although a Spanish-Mexican coproduction) since he had gone into exile. Viridiana was chosen as Spain’s official entry for the Cannes Film Festival, where it won two major awards, but it was condemned by the Vatican for sacrilege and was subsequently banned in Spain. To get distribution elsewhere, the film’s nationality had to be changed from Spanish to Mexican, as Buñuel’s had been. These traumatic circumstances help to explain why Buñuel was so determined to demonstrate what could be achieved with artistic freedom in Mexico, even as an exile.
Luis Bunuel: (From Wikipedia: Click Here)
Luis Buñuel Portolés (February 22, 1900 - July 29, 1983) was a Spanish filmmaker who worked in Spain, Mexico and France. When Luis Buñuel died at age 83, his obituary in the New York Times called him "an iconoclast, moralist, and revolutionary who was a leader of avant-garde surrealism in his youth and a dominant international movie director half a century later". His first picture—made in the silent era—was called "the most famous short film ever made" by critic Roger Ebert, and his last film—made 48 years later—won him Best Director awards from the National Board of Review and the National Society of Film Critics. Writer Octavio Paz called Buñuel's work "the marriage of the film image to the poetic image, creating a new reality...scandalous and subversive".
Often associated with the surrealist movement of the 1920s, Buñuel created films from the 1920s through the 1970s. His work spans two continents, three languages, and nearly every film genre, including experimental film, documentary, melodrama, satire, musical, erotica, comedy, romance, costume dramas, fantasy, crime film, adventure, and western. Despite this variety, filmmaker John Huston believed that, regardless of genre, a Buñuel film is so distinctive as to be instantly recognizable, or, as Ingmar Bergman put it, "Buñuel nearly always made Buñuel films".
Six of Buñuel's films are included in Sight & Sound's 2012 critic's poll of the top 250 films of all time. 15 of his films are included in They Shoot Pictures, Don't They? list of the 1,000 greatest films of all time, which is tied with John Ford for second most, and he ranks number 14 on their list of the top 250 directors.