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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Friday, May 29, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 35

[35th of 100]. This movie is the gateway drug to the surreal world of the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel. I prefer this 1967 classic to his more celebrated 1972 film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie because in the latter film, the usual targets of his withering critique -- the upper class and the clergy -- may still bear the brunt of his harsh allegories but there is a sense of doing so in a deflected form of affection. In this movie, there is no such accommodation: it is harsh, and it is damning, and it is funny. Perhaps it is best to say now that the film is, of course, a comedy. A black comedy if you want to call it that. I mention The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie because the two films are often seen as bookends of the same conceit. In Bourgeoisie, wealthy people sit down to have dinner together, again and again, yet are always interrupted by some circumstances, and the food never comes. In this film, we get the opposite: a wealthy Spanish couple in the time of Franco hosts a dinner party -- but when the meal is over, everyone finds it mysteriously impossible to leave the room, even if there is no physical barrier to their departure. They settle in for the night, realizing only the severity of their predicament by morning. As the days go by, they hang on to the civility expected of their class, only to find it a frayed thing -- they become hungry, and dirty, and hysterical, eventually turning on one another in a kind of Lord of the Flies for the moneyed class. It is a delicious social satire that also delights with its unexplained surreal elements: What to make of the chained bear in the kitchen, or the sheep? Or the chicken claws in a handbag? Or the crawling disembodied hand? Why do the servants except for the majordomo hasten to leave the house even before the dinner guests start arriving? What to make of the fact that things seem to happen twice? Early in the evening of the dinner, the guests enter the house twice. During dinner, the host gives the same toast twice, to different reactions from the guests. Everything seems to beg for an interpretation, and I think that's one of the appeals of this movie: it's an intriguing puzzle you simply wish to solve. It was that inclination that first made me embrace the movie when I first saw it in college -- and I soon came to realize it's just one in the long run of delightful pranks Buñuel peppered his works with. Sure they are allegories, and sure you can read them however you want. My singular pleasure now is just to take them in and laugh at the demented sense of humour of this extraordinary filmmaker. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich