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Monday, September 28, 2009

SIMON OF THE DESERT (1965)

Luis Buñuel takes a mordant view of Saint Simon & his pillar, distilling the usual Buñuelian themes (sex, religion, modern mores & culture, food) into forty minutes of intellectual clarity and bewilderment. The film opens with Simon literally reaching the heights as he moves stations from his old pillar perch to a new, improved and significantly taller pillar. All the better to look down on all the souls who come for philosophical, moral, spiritual or physical fixes, accepted with po-faced certitude by the clerical & secular pilgrims who come & go. Meanwhile, Simon finds his own trials in dealing with a devil who keeps turning up in various tempting guises. Meant to take its place as one third of an unmade omnibus pic, the time restriction turns this into Buñuel’s most efficient major work while a production budget crunch necessitated a finale set in the hippest purgatory imaginable. A must-see.

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