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The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
Surrealism, wisdom, and outrage
More or less a remake of Josef von Sternberg’s The Devil is a Woman, this is the great Spanish director Luis Buñuel’s final manifesto about love, chaos, and the way the tumult of our desires scrambles the order of our lives. By the time he got to this film, the overt surrealism of the younger Buñuel who made L’Age d’Or and Un Chien Andalou so saturated his understanding of human behavior that what remained was as much wisdom as outrage.
The masterstroke in this story of obsession is a conceit of casting mothered by necessity when Last Tango in Paris’ Maria Schneider abandoned the production. Like reality, passion’s object is a chameleon: An older businessman plots to have his way with his maid and she has her way with his sanity; the result perfectly crystallizes how sex reduces men to idiocy and wrath. “Somewhere between chance and mystery,” said Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite filmmaker, “lies imagination—the only thing that protects our freedom,” and as he grew older, Buñuel’s instinct for subversion grew sharper.
Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy