Directed by Luis Bunuel and released in its home country of Mexico in 1965.
Another of Bunuel’s ambitious films about virtue (and from a pretentious critics point of view: one might label it pretentious) – this time focusing on a man who is literally put up on a pedestal in the desert. Hilarious at times – a man with no hands is healed, given back both of his hands, and the first thing he does is his smack his child with one of them – and downright outrageous at others – a coffin is dragged through the desert in front of Simon’s podium and out pops the Devil – Bunuel’s even stranger surrealist beginnings truly pay off for him here as it contains some of his most ambitious editing.
As with all his films though, it’s the screenplay that impresses most beyond anything – unfortunately for this film though it is let down by a less than satisfying ending and the fact that it was supposed to be followed by another film or two on the end of it in a portmanteau style that starred Silvia Pinal. That plan never came into fruition and this film suffers from it. It does work by itself though – just not as well as it may’ve if there were other films bookending it.
There is something about cinema that attracts people from all walks of life. Whether it is merely as a form of self-expression I think the societal effects a film can have; has played a vital part in the attraction of new filmmakers from all across the world. Films like The Act of Killing (2012) which showcase an entire generation from 1960’s Indonesia to the rest of the world who are likely oblivious to their existence let alone the events show in the film.
The real test, however, is how the nation itself reacts. I can’t say how everyday Indonesians have reacted to the film of course–that is even if the government of Indonesia have even allowed the film to be shown inside the country, another thing I can’t say–but I can give another example: in 1971 youths decided to recreate scenes they had seen or heard about in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). These stories, naturally, sparked an outrage across the United Kingdom with people completely denouncing the film as blasphemous and evil without even having seen the film. Upon hearing this, Kubrick was as shocked as the rest of the country but he also felt ashamed. It wasn’t his intention to influence already-violent teens into expressing rage in such a way. Due to his shame, Kubrick withdrew the film from UK cinemas with the request that it only be shown again after his death. By 1999 when Kubrick had passed away, despite urban legends that now surrounded the film, the national opinion on violence in cinema hadn’t changed so much as learnt to be much more tolerant. The video nasty age of the 1980’s surely played a huge part in the swaying of public opinion regards to violence in cinema. Within years of its re-release the film was labelled a cult classic and, by critics alike, as one of Kubrick’s most visionary masterpieces. While the film itself was not a direct catapult for the turnaround of national opinion with regards to violence in cinema, it was among a host of films from the era that caused a stir. Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) was also labelled evil and blasphemous thanks to incredible orgy scenes that featured dildo-wielding nuns swinging from chandeliers–enough to make even the most lax Christian squeal “BLASPHEMY!” through the screens as if their voice even made a difference.
Unfortunately there are some countries that are still to make a worthwhile addition to the world cinema. North Korea’s impositions on the cinema are the only reason the country has produced under 20 films in over 120 years since the art form being established. Even oppressed countries and states such as the Philippines and Vietnam have produced vast amounts of film as their contribution to the art form even throughout times of occupation and war being thrust upon them by oppressive countries and dictatorships. The hypocrisy of North Korea’s lack of cinema is exemplified by the fact that the neighbouring country South Korea produces thousands of films and televisions shows yearly as well as the vast archive of films that former North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il held and treasured. His personal adoration of Elvis Presley alone should have been a clear indicator to any and all Koreans born in the North that have even a passing interest in cinema that there is more to this art form than the propaganda pumped through the airwaves for as long as they have existed on this planet.
The cinema of South Korea, much to the chagrin of their neighbours in the north, is absolutely astonishing. Out of all of the Asian countries, when you compare each of their best films and filmmakers South Korea undeniably stands on a pedestal above them. Of course, this is only with regards to the last three decades of cinema. If we were to take the 100 years prior into consideration Japan would definitely take the cake. So it seems that the versatility and brutal honesty of Japanese cinema that was so prevalent up until the 1970s (and that transformed into the horrific gore-fest films of the ‘80s and ‘90s the country produced that were as gory, bloody and rape-filled much more than they were honest or versatile) had been transferred to the South Korean cinema during the late 1990s. Directors like LEE Chang-dong, PARK Chan-wook and HONG Sang-soo would take the cinema of their country to brand new heights that it would not detract from, even at the point in time of writing this.
Despite this countries epic contribution to the cinematic art form, their neighbours to the north still insist on adding zero films to their repertoire–this is even with the passing of KIM Jong-il. The cinema of any other countries that neighbour each other do not compare with the difference in the Korean cinemas. Not even the cinemas of Great Britain can compare. Regardless of the fact that England has always been the stand-out country with regards to cinema. Wales, Scotland and Ireland have never really attempted to challenge this status quo. Trainspotting (1996), for example, is a great Scottish film but an Englishman was at the helm–Danny Boyle. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006), is a great Irish film but an Englishman was at the helm–Ken Loach. This is a trend that runs through almost all films from this region that has gained mainstream recognition. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing each country or state on this planet to participate in the cinematic art form–but at the end of the day; it just isn’t as simple as the want of one man.