Luis Bunuel – “Los Olvidados” (The Forgotten Ones). 1950
Gary Indiana – “The Phantom of Liberty” (Luis Bunuel)
The Serpentine Movements of Chance
Of the various insects that like to make their home in our houses, certainly the most interesting, for her beautiful shape, her curious manners, and her wonderful nest, is a certain Wasp called the Pelopaeus. She is very little known, even to the people by whose fireside she lives. This is owing to her quiet, peaceful ways; she is so very retiring that her host is nearly always ignorant of her presence.
In the library of Luis Buñuel’s house in Mexico City, there were two bookshelves that bore evidence of considerably more frequent consultation than the others: one held the works of the Marquis de Sade, the other the writings of Jean-Henri Fabre, whose volume on the Mason-Wasp is quoted above.
Fabre’s Souvenirs Entomologiques was the delight of my childhood, though Fabre did not write for children, and I suspect most very young people reading him would be scared out of their wits. “The Homer of Insects,” as Darwin called him, describes the lives of the glowworm, the cricket, the cicada, the praying mantis, and myriad other tiny creatures with an empathy and keenness of observation that makes the reader love them as much as Fabre did. All the more horrifying, then, when the great entomologist, a scientist before all else, relates how his characters come to their end:
I once saw a Bee-eating Wasp, while carrying a Bee to her storehouse, attacked and caught by a Mantis. The Wasp was in the act of eating the honey she had found in the Bee’s crop. The double saw of the Mantis closed suddenly on the feasting Wasp; but neither terror nor torture could persuade that greedy creature to leave off eating. Even while she was herself being actually devoured she continued to lick honey from her Bee!
Buñuel’s movies almost always feature insects—the bee Fernando Rey rescues from drowning in Viridiana, the deadly scorpions of L’Age d’or, the wasps that devour the dead mule in Las hurdes, the fly in the martini in That Obscure Object of Desire. In The Phantom of Liberty, Buñuel’s penultimate film, Jean-Claude Brialy’s character disrupts the arrangement of his mantlepiece with a large spider in a glass frame: “I’m sick of symmetry,” he announces, a line that could serve as an epigraph for this film. In it, the director gives the aleatory ordering of dreams and the role of chance in waking life equal weightlessness. Indeed, it could easily be titled The Dream Life of Insects.
Fabre’s genius, and de Sade’s for that matter, consisted in evoking the human being’s inextricable connection to nature (in the unameliorative sense of “the food chain”)—Fabre anthropomorphized the insect world, while de Sade insectomorphized the human. Reading either of Buñuel’s favorite authors reminds us that nature has no morality, and the kind we cook up for ourselves is completely arbitrary. (As Witold Gombrowicz put it, if you want to know what human morality is all about, take food away from people for three days.) Buñuel, too, never lost sight of the primacy of instinctual drives. And also like de Sade, he was, essentially, a satirist of human folly. His characters often resemble “the Divine Marquis’s” instinct-driven monstrosities. But they also have the affectionately rendered charm of Fabre’s insects, who combine ingenuity and intelligence within their narrow ken and complete imbecility vis-à-vis their actual position in the food chain.
The semi-incestuous passion of the aunt and nephew at the inn, the similar fixé of the police commissioner for his deceased sister, the gambling addiction of ascetic monks, the autograph seekers swarming around the convicted (and simultaneously released) mass killer, the massacre at the city zoo—a few of The Phantom of Liberty’s nonstop, straight-faced absurdities—indicate how readily the human animal maintains an existence utterly contrary to its moral code as well as to its much-advertised ability to reason.
Buñuel perceived a “logical irrationality” at work in human affairs. His films explore the realms of fixation and unconscious desire that elude any conventional dramatic tidiness, though the genius of his Mexican-era films owes a lot to the selective perversion and exaggeration of melodramatic clichés and soap-operatic plots. In the films that follow Viridiana (and particularly the ones after Belle de jour), his aversion to storytelling symmetry became steadily more pronounced. And in The Milky Way, Bunuel began demolishing the few norms of Aristotelian structure he had, in his way, dressed some sets with until then. (Tristana marks a final nod to novelistic method, adapted from a book by Benito Pérez Galdós that Bunuel long wanted to film.)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty, and That Obscure Object of Desire—Buñuel’s final three films—are his most uninhibited, and his best-realized. Not every artist has the fortune to hit his highest pitch at the end of a career. But it’s evident in all the written residua— interviews, his autobiography, accounts by his sons, friends—that Buñuel remained, all his life, insatiably curious about questions many people give up asking themselves long before reaching old age. He acquired wisdom, an unfashionable concept but a quality rather more libertine than those allergic to it imagine.
These last films are in no sense a “trilogy.” I would argue that they are three long, differently configured sections of a single film, and one of their glories—something that might not be especially flattering in the case of another director—is that once you’ve seen all three, it’s difficult afterward to say which indelible scene happens in which film.
The Phantom of Liberty has, if you like, “a beginning, a middle, and an end.” But it also has several other films with beginnings, middles, and ends running inside it, around its edges, and hurtling through it. Its roots in the Spanish picaresque—not Don Quixote, necessarily, but works like The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes, the succinct, 118-page progenitor of the picaresque, published fifty years before Don Quixote—are even more distinct than in the overlapping dreams of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (which much resembles the ghostly masterwork of Mexican picaresque, Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo). Another oneric likeness can be found in Jan Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, a book Buñuel often spoke of wanting to film, an epic of ghosts and revenants, stories nested in stories, digressions that overwhelm the ostensible plot.
The Phantom of Liberty proceeds as if its sudden detours into unanticipated places were determined by rolls of the dice, and it was assembled in a comparable way, by Buñuel and his longtime co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière telling each other their dreams every morning. It follows the specific pattern of a less chaotic kind of narrative than the picaresque, the earliest example of which may be Tolstoy’s “The Forged Coupon,” the inspiration for Bresson’s gorgeous film L’Argent. Tolstoy’s story follows the career of an altered item of currency and shows its effects on a succession of people who accept it as cash and then pass it along to the next person. Another such work is Andre Gide’s Les Caves du Vatican, a novel Buñuel tried to adapt with the author in the 1920s, abandoning it after three days. (The structure is rarely used, and a few recent films that have tried it are strangely inept.)
Buñuel’s own description of his approach suits as well as a synopsis of Gide or Tolstoy. In published conversations with José de la Colina and Tomás Pérez Turrent, Buñuel mentions that he doesn’t especially care for Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and thought it would be a far more interesting book if, as Raskolnikov ascends the stairs to murder the old pawnbroker, a boy on his way to buy a loaf of bread rushed past him and suddenly became the focus of the narrative instead of Raskolnikov.
As in The Milky Way and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty shifts attention not only from a central character to a minor one, who then becomes central, but also from one time period to another. The film opens in Toledo during the Napoleonic occupation, as a costume drama involving executions and drunken French soldiers desecrating a church, a statue that comes to life, an exhumation. As the story reaches its climax, we hear the voice of Muni, a plump, antic actress who appears in many Buñuel films, reading the story aloud and next see her sitting with a friend on a park bench in present-day Paris.
Muni leads us to the prepubescent daughter of Brialy and Monica Vitti, who leads us to them. Brialy goes to his doctor’s office; during his examination, a nurse, played by Milena Vukotic, gets word that her father is gravely ill and leaves to drive to a distant hospital. The film follows her as she drives into a rainstorm and seeks refuge at an inn, where several monks stranded there rope her into a poker game; they’re eventually joined by a young man and his aunt who’ve just arrived and a flamenco dancer and her husband. It would be criminal to go on, and silly to relate the “plot” of The Phantom of Liberty, since the film is a compendium of surprises. Like Dostoyevsky’s novels, The Phantom of Liberty retains its surprise quality even when experienced a second, third, and fourth time: you find yourself intensely wondering what happens next, when you know perfectly well what happens next.
What does it mean? Phantom of Liberty? Buñuel joked that the title was a collaboration between himself and Karl Marx. It also seems jejune to suggest interpretations, since Buñuel deflected all incitements to explain himself and insisted that nothing at all in his films was symbolic or had the significance people attached to his recurring motifs. He liked the appearance of a peculiar bird—I think it’s called an emu—so he put one in. When he cast two actresses in the role Maria Schneider had been fired from in That Obscure Object of Desire, Buñuel merely threw the idea out to Serge Silberman, his producer, as a joke. Silberman thought he was serious, that it was the perfect solution—and that’s what happened.
At the end of his life, Buñuel had achieved such fluidity in his filmmaking that he could take Phantom in any direction that occurred to him, along the path of the previous night’s dreams, fantasies from childhood, premonitions of approaching death, or, if he’d cared to, into outer space. To call him a film director is like calling Einstein a mathematician. There was no artist like him ever, and there will never be another. He didn’t simply direct a film called The Phantom of Liberty; he was the Phantom of Liberty.
Bryan M. Papciak – “Thank God I’m an atheist”
The surrealistic cinema of Luis Bunuel
“The thought of death has been familiar to me for a long time,” says Director Luis Bunuel. “From the time that skeletons were carried through the streets of Calanda during the Holy Week procession, death has been an integral part of my life. I’ve never wished to forget or deny it, but there’s not much to say about it when you’re an atheist”. So reads an accurate testimonial to the personal and artistic sentiment of this odd and serious filmmaker. Like many of his contemporary surrealists, Bunuel is a paradox who on one hand claims apathy towards ultimate end, being, and Being, yet on the other hand loads his impressive body of work with moribund imagery and strange ideas about the God he so vociferously denies. Bunuel exhibits a radical, iconoclastic view of the world in which he finds society decadent and antithetical to human liberation. He has been called a realist, a surrealist, a Marxist, an anarchist, a mystic, an anticleric, a Freudian, a post-Freudian, a sadist, a moralist, a Christian, and a poet-showman of the macabre. His scenarios range from the absurd to the tragic to the satiric to the erotic, profusely endued with the outra-geous and the scandalous.
Luis Bunuel has long been recognized in European critical circles as a great and prolific filmmaker on a par with Eisenstein, Chaplin, and Fellini. However, only recently has his reputation in America begun to catch up. Over his fifty-year career he directed thirty-two feature films and worked in Spain, France, Mexico, Italy, and the United States. Utilizing sardonic humor and the imagery of surrealism, Bunuel set out to undermine the values and institutions people take for granted. His aims were specific: through the surreal, visualizing the impulses of the uncon-scious, he would, he said, “shatter the optimism of the bourgeoisie world and force the reader (or spectator) to question the permanency of the prevailing order” (Mellen 3).
Luis Bunuel was born February 22, 1900 in Calanda, a small town in the province of Teruel, Spain. As a youth he received a Jesuit education, displaying exceptional talent in music, athletics, and the natural sciences. He enjoyed a comfortable upbringing in a reasonably wealthy, close-knit family. His family came from liberal, semi-intellectual, land-owning bourgeoisie. These details are not irrelevant. To comprehend Bunuel’s works it is essential to understand that he was first a Spaniard and secondly a product of Spanish bourgeoisie. Virginia Higgenbotham points out that “blasphemy is only a form of thinking for any intelligent Span-iard,” and also that the “art of his country is rich in eroticism and profoundly preoccupied with death” (18, 20). Bunuel says:
My infancy slipped by in an almost medieval atmosphere (like that of nearly all the Spanish provinces) between my native town and Zaragova. I feel it necessary to say here (since it explains in part the trend of the modest work which I later accomplished) that the two basic sentiments of my childhood which stayed with me well into adolescence, are those of a profound eroticism, at first sublimated in a great religious faith, and a permanent consciousness of death. It would take too long here to analyze the reasons. It suffices that I was not an exception among my compatriots, since this is a very Spanish characteristic, and our art, exponent of the Spanish spirit, was impregnated with these two sentiments. The last civil war, peculiar and ferocious as no other exposed them clearly. ( 13)
Coming of age, Bunuel expressed a strong urge to go to Paris to study music but was sent instead to Madrid to study agricultural engineering. After a few years, he switched his studies to entomology, and, more importantly, began forming close friendships with a group of young artists who were to influence him strongly in the future. These companions included the poets Frederico Garcia Lorca and Jose Moreno Villa and the painter Salvador Dali. In the Madrid residencia Bunuel developed his interest in the arts, theater, and acting and gained his introduction to surrealism. After graduating in 1925 with a degree in Philosophy and Letters, Bunuel moved to Paris, joined by a few members of his residencia coterie.
Bunuel arrived in Paris highly recommended by influential friends of his parents and was introduced into the best intellectual circles of the city. He was soon hired as an Assistant Director to Jean Epstien, “the only director of that bleak era of the French cinema to merit the title of an intellectual filmmaker” (Aranda 32). While honing his skills working as an A.D., Bunuel also began contributing articles to various literary cinema periodicals, most notably La Gaceta Hispanoamericana. In 1929 he formally entered the Paris Surrealist Group. Within this setting he embarked on his first film project as director, a collaboration with his residencia friend Salvador Dali, entitled Un Chien Andalou. He collaborated with Dali again in 1930 on another surrealist film, L¹Age d’Or. The rest, as they say, is history.
Some critics, most notably Pauline Kael and Penelope Gilliatt, now regard Bunuel as the Hitchcock of surrealism – a venerated master in total command of his medium and for whom the art of filmic manipulation became a “delightful form of play.” For Bunuel, however, play had little to do with it. Rather, he saw surrealism as a revolutionary, poetic, and moral movement:
“All of us were supporters of a certain concept of revolution, and although the surrealists didn’t consider themselves terrorists, they were constantly fighting a society they despised. The principle weapon was not guns, of course, it was scandal. Scandal was a potent agent of revelation, capable of exposing such social crimes as exploitation of one man by another, colonialist imperialism, religious tyranny – in sum, all the secret and odious underpinnings of a system that had to be destroyed”. (Bunuel 107)
He went on to say, “The purpose of surrealism was not to create a new literary, artistic, or even philosophical movement, but to explode the social order, to transform life itself’ ( 107). Salvador Dali recalled the surrealists ideology, “It is possible to systematize confusion thanks to a paranoia and active process of thought and so assist in discrediting completely the world of reality” (Gould 37).
Indeed, the intent of surreal art is to move one from the conscious mind into the subconscious. It seeks to affect the emotions through the mind. Michael Gould states in Surrealism and the Cinema, “If the vision revealed is too much for the rational mind to absorb (too intense, too threatening, too ‘real’) yet cannot be rejected, then it leaves the consciousness and comes to exist on a sublime level as pure surrealism” (13). In Un Chien Andalou, for example, a girl’s eye is sliced with a razor blade, a man wipes his mouth completely off his face, dead donkey carcasses adorn a piano, a man’s hand crawls with ants. Each of these images is clearly too intense for rational thought.
Bunuel was drawn to the surrealist movement for more than revolutionary or psychological reasons. The moral aspects of the movement intrigued him as well:
“For the first time in my life, I’d come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humor, the insult, and the call of the abyss. Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable; there was simply no room for doubt. Everything made sense. Our morality may have been more demanding and more dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, more coherent”. (Bunuel 107)
The surreal qualities in Bunuel ‘s films can be traced to a number of sources, but the primary impetus was his “irrational sensibility” as evidenced by his treatment of image, montage, and sound. These gave his films their dreamlike quality. His most intense images are evocative of either humor or mystery. Mystery, he believed, is the essential element of any art; it is inseparable from chance, and the whole universe is a mystery, Bunuel believed that his own form of atheism led inevitably to the acceptance of the inexplicable. “Since I reject the idea of a divine watchmaker,” he said, “(a notion even more mysterious than the mystery it supposedly explains), then I must consent to live in a kind of shadowy confusion…. At least it keeps my moral freedom intact” (174). Predictably, adherence to fantasy as opposed to reason in a rationalistic society leads to conflict. The surrealists opposed nearly all traditional values and, as noted before, sought to destroy “all conventional social, moral, and artistic habits of thought and perception” (Higgenbotham 30). Enter Un Chien Andalou.
In 1929, Un Chien Andalou was as shocking and scandalous as Bunuel and Dali had hoped it would be. It gave rise to a staggering range of interpretations: poetic, scandalous, incoherent, an attack upon critics, an attack upon religion, and attack upon the bourgeoisie. (Interestingly, the film was financed by Bunuel’s bourgeois mother.)
Un Chien Andalou (which means An Andalusian Dog – though there are no dogs in the film) was deliberately intended to jolt the spectator’s peace of mind and to convey some of the basic beliefs underlying the surrealist movement, including the omnipotence of desire. Bunuel stated that he and Dali held to only one rule during the production, “No idea or image that might lend itself to rational explanation of any kind would be accepted. We had to open all doors to the irrational and keep only those images that surprised us without trying to explain why” (104).
The aim of the film was not exclusively to shock, but to incendiarially affect the collective conscience. At the same time it was an indictment of all the art consumers who, either through stupidity, masochism, or self interest, were willing to swallow anything, no matter how much it went against their instincts. Bunuel asked, “What can I do about the people who adore all that is new, even when it goes against their deepest convictions, or about the insincere, corrupt press and the inane herd that saw beauty and poetry in something which was basically no more than a desperate call for murder?” (Bauche 9).
The film is a dream and, like a dream, is both fascinating and disturbing. The opening scene in which a girl’s eye is sliced sets the tone of the film’s meandering and confusing itinerary. Many of the elements that make up the film are remnants of objective reality. The way they are arranged within the scenario pushes them into a mental reconstruction process–in exactly the way dreams draw on the previous day’s experience. Interestingly, the images have the matter-of-fact quality of a newsreel, or what Higgenbotham calls a “prosaic realism” (38).
Bunuel chose not to use the distorted lenses, supered images, or blurred focus (cinematic conventions of the day) to suggest the dreamlike quality of his film. Instead, he approached the entire non-narrative in a straightforward manner. He used the shocking incongruity of the images themselves to build the hallucinatory feeling of anguish that runs through the film. The unrealistic fashion in which the realistic images were juxtaposed was the perfect way, according to Freddy Bauche, to illustrate “the dramatic collision between desire and the object of desire” (10).
Obviously, the director drew much of Un Chien Andalou from his Spanish heritage–the religious and social implications, the themes of emotionalism and death, even the donkey carcasses. “Thus Un Chien Andalou, as a milestone in the history of cinema, emerges from its director’s adolescence in Spain and announces the themes and techniques that were to preoccupy Bunuel for half a century, through the rest of his career” (Higgenbotham 39).
Where desire and eroticism prevailed in Un Chien Andalou, religion took center stage in Simon del Desierto (Simon of the Desert), produced in Mexico in 1965. Simon del Desierto is a bizarre little narrative set in the fifth century A.D. Saint Simon, in order to be as close to God as possible, has stood praying on top of a sixty-foot pillar for thirty-seven years. He is profoundly sanctimonious-to the degree that he even blesses his own tooth when it falls from his mouth. His devotion, however, is put to the test when the Devil (a woman wearing the uniform of a Catholic school girl) arrives in a slithering coffin at the pillar. She is intent on luring the Holy Disciple from his perch as she repeatedly ridicules him and insults his character. Simon heroically resists her temptations at every turn despite her various disguises; first, a priest, then a shepherd, and finally as the Savior himself. At last, despite Simon’s holy strength, and for reasons not entirely clear, the Devil is able to exert her full power and whisk him away to hell–a Greenwich village disco where trendies writhe and grind to “The Radioactive Flesh.”
The implications are staggering. “The saint, devoted to his god, sits high on a pillar for all of life…. But the pillar, discolored over the years, winding and twisting its way to the ground, is the excrement of the saint. Saint though he is, his bowels must still move. So there he sits, near God indeed, but supported on a pillar of excrement” (Mellen 115). There have been several interpretations of this seemingly blasphemous imagery. One is that God and his church are really built on unacknowledged humanity. Another is that we can reach God only through understanding the true nature of our humanity. Still another is that religion (primarily Catholicism) is essentially a “pillar of excrement.” Bunuel himself put all the interpretations in perspective when he said, “Thank God I’m still an atheist.”
Luis Bunuel’s flair for perverse surrealism and his malicious attacks on conventional morality were fully realized in his second to last film, Le Fantome de la Liberte (The Phantom of Liberty), produced in France in 1974 – almost fifty years after Un Chien Andalou. Fantome in many ways functioned as a sort of sequel to his 1972 film, Le Channe Discret de la Bourgeoisie (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie). The images are astounding and playfully absurd: Spanish hostages of the Napoleonic war cry “Down with Freedom!” as they are executed. A French lieutenant fondles the statue of a beautiful noblewoman and is struck on the head by another statue. Bourgeois couples discuss defecation around a toilet-lined table but consider “food” an impolite topic, and so on.
The titular reference to a “phantom” boffows from the opening line of Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto: “A specter is haunting Europe-the specter of communism.” Bunuel twists this meaning to imply that the specter haunting the bourgeoisie is “the possibility of its own freedom unburdened by the dead ends of sexual license, willful irrationality, and the liberty to go beyond the self-indulgent eccentricities of the individual ego” (Mellen 318). Bunuel compared the film to one of his earlier surrealist works, L¹Age d’Or, saying, “It is no longer possible to scandal-ize people as we did in 1930. Today you have to do it with sweet subversion” ( Mellen 183). Le Fantome de la Liberte charges that society has substituted arbitrary willfulness for freedom. One of the film’s vignettes shows two parents who insist on declaring their daughter a missing person, although she is plainly sitting in front of them. The police, in a similar display of willful blindness to reality, even ask the child herself for her vital statistics and how she disappeared. In another episode, four chain-smoking monks gamble with their holy medallions in a card game. “I’ll open with a virgin,” says one. Another plays a “father.”
Bunuel believed reality is actually a smoke screen for hidden urges. He used the absurd to imply “an attack on specific abuses, not on some safely vague condition of man” (Durgnat 65). In Le Fantome de la Liberte Bunuel doubts not so much the possibility for society’s redemption as its likelihood. “We have been rendered unwittingly comfortable within our psychic cages to the point where we prefer them to liberty, an experience and aspiration we neither understand or desire” (Mellen 331).
For fifty years, Luis Bunuel made films about society’s dilemmas. His art is his declaration of confidence in a human race dominated by a bourgeoisie given to hypocrisy, sadism, and above all, a disrespect for its own capacity to live differently and better. He summed it all up himself:
“As I drift toward my last sigh, I often imagine a final joke. I convoke around my deathbed my friends who are confirmed atheists as I am. Then a priest, whom I have summoned, arrives; and to the horror of my friends, I make my confession, ask for absolution for my sins, and receive extreme unction. After which I turn over on my side and expire. But will I have the strength to joke at that moment? (256)
Luis Bunuel died in 1983.
Aranda, Francisco. Luis Bunuel : A critical biography. De Capo Press, New York: 1976.
Buache, Freddy. The cinema of Luis Bunuel. International Filmguide Series, Tantivy Press, London: 1973.
Bunuel, Luis. My last sigh. Alfred A. Knopf, New York: 1983.
Durgnat, Raymond. Luis Bunuel. University of California Press, Berkeley: 1977.
Gould, Micheal. Surrealism and the cinema. Tantivy Press, London: 1976.
Higgenbotham, Virginia. Luis Bunuel. Twayne, Boston: 1979.
Mellen, Joan, ed. The world of Luis Bunuel: Essays in criticism. Oxford University Press, New York; 1978.
Luis Bunuel – Quotes
“In a world as badly made as ours, there is only one road – rebellion.”
A paranoiac like a poet, is born, not made.
“Sex without religion is like cooking an egg without salt. Sin gives more chance to desire…
“All of us were supporters of a certain concept of revolution, and although the surrealists didn’t consider themselves terrorists, they were constantly fighting a society they despised. The principle weapon was not guns, of course, it was scandal. Scandal was a potent agent of revelation, capable of exposing such social crimes as exploitation of one man by another, colonialist imperialism, religious tyranny – in sum, all the secret and odious underpinnings of a system that had to be destroyed”
“For the first time in my life, I’d come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humor, the insult, and the call of the abyss. Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable; there was simply no room for doubt. Everything made sense. Our morality may have been more demanding and more dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, more coherent”
“As I drift toward my last sigh, I often imagine a final joke. I convoke around my deathbed my friends who are confirmed atheists as I am. Then a priest, whom I have summoned, arrives; and to the horror of my friends, I make my confession, ask for absolution for my sins, and receive extreme unction. After which I turn over on my side and expire. But will I have the strength to joke at that moment?
Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.
Fortunately, somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether.
Frankly, despite my horror of the press, I’d love to rise from the grave every ten years or so and go buy a few newspapers.
God and Country are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed.
I can only wait for the final amnesia, the one that can erase an entire life.
If you were to ask me if I’d ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I’d have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead.
In the name of Hippocrates, doctors have invented the most exquisite form of torture ever known to man: survival.
Thank God I’m an atheist.
“The thought of death has been familiar to me for a long time. From the time that skeletons were carried through the streets of Calanda during the Holy Week procession, death has been an integral part of my life. I’ve never wished to forget or deny it, but there’s not much to say about it when you’re an atheist”
The decline of the aperitif may well be one of the most depressing phenomena of our time.
“As a young man, [Salvador Dali] was totally asexual, and forever making fun of friends who fell in love or ran after women – until the day he lost his virginity to Gala & wrote me a 6-page letter detailing, in his own inimitable way, the pleasures of carnal love. (Gala’s the only woman he ever really made love to. Of course, he’s seduced many, particularly American heiresses; but those seductions usually entailed stripping them naked in his apartment, frying a couple of eggs, putting them on the woman’s shoulders, and, without a word, showing them to the door.)” excerpted from Luis Buñuel’s autobiography, My Last Sigh
“We wrote the script in less than a week, following a very simple idea, adopted by common agreement: not to accept any idea or image that might give rise to a rational, psychological or cultural explanation”. Un Chien andalou. (Quoted in Instituto Cervantes, Buñuel, 100 año: es peligroso asomarse al Interior/ Buñuel, 100 Years: It’ s Dangerous to Look Inside, Instituto Cervantes; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 62.)
“The extreme right attacked the movie theatre, tore up the paintings in the surrealist exhibit that had been set up in the foyer, threw bombs at the screen, and destroyed seats. It was the “scandal” of L’Age d’or. A week later, Chiappe, civil governor, purely and simply banned the film in the name of public order”. L’Age d’or. Quoted in Instituto Cervantes, Buñuel, 100 año: es peligroso asomarse al Interior/ Buñuel, 100 Years: It’ s Dangerous to Look Inside, Instituto Cervantes; Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001, p. 62.