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Simon del Desierto based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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BUÑUEL¿S ¿SIMON OF THE DESERT¿ STILL PROVOKES
By Robin E. Simmons
Forty-four years ago, Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), the Spanish film meistro still living in self-imposed Mexican exile from Franco¿s, rule directed what was to become his most famous work of surrealism.
Buñuel¿s last Mexican film, ¿Simon of the Desert¿ (Simon del Desierto), was originally intended to be a full-length feature film, but was cut short ¿ literally ¿ when the promised funding evaporated. With about 40 minutes of scripted material in the can, Buñuel radically altered the ending. A change that ensured the movie¿s well-deserved acclaim.
Simon is based on Symeon the Stylite, also known as the Hermit of the Pillar (around 400 A.D.). He was one of the many ascetics who sought salvation by isolation and deprivation after the fall of the Roman Empire. Simon chose to live atop a column, dependent on the good will of strangers for bread and water.
Like much of Buñuel¿s work, ¿Simon of the Desert¿ is considered blasphemous by some. The ¿enfante terrible of surrealism,¿ a name Buñuel loved being called, depicts a bearded, bedraggled Simon (a terrific Claudio Brook) atop his pillar for six years, six months, six days (uh oh, 666), when the devil periodically appears (a la sensuous Sylvia Pinal) and taunts him, hoping he will climb down.
¿Thank God I¿m still an atheist,¿ Buñuel was often quoted as saying. But he was educated by Jesuits and steeped in religious myth, ritual and culture. His mockery of organized religion is often inspired (no pun intended). Perhaps now more than ever as we are engaged in a global conversation regarding the effects religious fundamentalism and fanaticism.
¿Simon of the Desert¿ comes to an abrupt and improvised ending that reminds me of the best of Rod Serling¿s ¿Twilight Zone¿ scripts. Deeply moral and ironic, it¿s a jolting time-warp leap that gives new meaning to the emptiness of the post-modern age, the banality of evil and the superficiality of pop culture.
The new, restored, high-definition digital transfer is, as with all Criterion titles, as good as possible. Extras include A Mexican Buñuel an 56 minute 1997 documentary and a new interview with actress Sylvia Pinal. An included booklet features a new essay by Michael Wood and a vintage interview with Buñuel.
For the serious collector of world cinema landmarks, this is one for the digital library.
Also new from Criterion is Buñuel¿s other gem ¿The Exterminating Angel.¿