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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

EXTERMINATING ANGEL (1961)


Typically mordant, surrealist fare from the master, Luis Buñuel. It’s an all but plotless film about an eerie situation that develops following a late-night dinner party. Something is off right from the start, but only the house staff feel it, fleeing the mansion without quite knowing why. It’s not just that sheep & a bear are roaming the halls, nor embarrassed discomfort after the first course crashes to the floor before it’s served. It’s true that small scenes are being inexplicably repeated on screen, but the characters can’t be aware of blips in the linear time sequence. Well, something is in the air when famously, memorably, the evening goes from unsatisfying to calamitous as all twenty guests, plus the butler, find themselves unable (or just unwilling?) to leave the drawing room. For days, for weeks, for . . . ever? In hindsight, this famous film is something of a warm-up for THE DISCRETE CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE/’72, which had all the rich financial & creative resources unavailable to Buñuel on this earlier Mexican production. Yet many artists lessen their achievements with added polish & refinement. How characteristically perverse of Buñuel to reverse this usual artistic equation.

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