Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Monday, October 01, 2007

That Obscure Object of Desire (Luis Bunuel, 1977)

Bunuel's last film is about the eternal battle of the sexes: the frigid, manipulative female against her older, horny sugar daddy. No wonder I had a few problems with it! Now, the film isn't as simplistic as my statement makes it seem, neither is it particularly misogynistic. But I had the problem with this film that I have had with many others over the course of the past few years; how can you say you like a film when you detest the two main characters? The only two real characters, in fact? Not that I need every film I see to be filled with likeable characters doing nice things, far from it. But it is hard, in such a "he said, she said" movie as this is, to choose sides or even enjoy the fight as a bystander when you couldn't care less about either participant.

Mathieu is an older, rich man who, at the very beginning of the film, has his butler burn some bloody clothes and then boards a train to Paris, when he sees a young, bandaged woman outside of the train following him. True to his surrealist roots, Bunuel has Mathieu dump a bucket of water on her at the train pulls away (although she boards anyway). The passengers in his car are unstrandably curious as to why he did that, and he tells them the complicated story of his relationship with Conchita. She came to him as his maid, ran away after his advances, and after a remarkably coincidental encounter in Switzerland, becomes close with him. They are in love, it seems, but she just will not have sex with him. Thus begins the conflict of the entire movie; Conchita is coy, a tease, and Mathieu is overeager and sure, in his masculine bourgeoisie way, that Conchita's virginity can be bought with a nice house and presents. They fight, part, and reconcile, until the final frame, when we can (almost) be sure the story is over.

Bunuel seems to be certain that relationships between men and woman are exclusively about sex; while Conchita's manipulative games are annoying, so is Mathieu's insistance on her feminine subjugation. Do I applaud Conchita for staying true to herself and getting what she can out of the relationship, or do I condemn her for toying with Mathieu in the most vicious of ways? Well, neither. Or both. Mathieu and Conchita's relationship reminds me of a couple I knew in high school - they didn't belong together, they were wrong for each other, but somehow, they thought they were perfect together, no matter how many fights and breakups. Who wants to watch that for two hours? When Bunuel directs it, though, it's more entertaining than most.

Two actresses play the role of Conchita; I thought Angela Molina was far better than Carole Bouquet, in her firey, particularly Spanish demeanor. While some claim that this decision was made in a nod to Bunuel's surrealist past, others said that Bunuel fired Bouquet halfway through, but couldn't afford to refilm the whole film and hired Molina for the second half, and still another story goes that Bunuel just could not decide between the two actresses. Whatever the real reason was, the trick of having two actresses play one character is a clever one; as is the terrorism motif always present in the characters' lives. A good film, but not an unflawed one.



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