SIMON SAYS: Claudio Brook stands tall in surreal Simon Of The Desert. Photo Courtesy of the Criterion Collection
THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL (Criterion, 1962) D: Luis Buñuel, w / Silvia Pinal, Enrique Rambal. Rating: NNNNN; DVD package: NNNN
SIMON OF THE DESERT (Criterion, 1965) D: Buñuel, w/ Claudio Brook, Pinal. Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN Rating: NNNNN
Luis Buñuel's reputation as cinema's master surrealist rests largely on The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie and the five other classics he made on his return to Europe in the 60s. Before that, he spent 18 years in Mexico turning out mostly commercial fare, but he still managed to direct a handful of personal films.
The Exterminating Angel and Simon Of The Desert stand with his best. If the acting and production values are slightly slipshod and Simon is, technically, incomplete, Buñuel's artistic concerns are still fully realized. The irrationality within the superficially linear narrative, the incongruous detail, tension between civilized and natural behaviour, the satire and anti-clerical stance are all there and all add to a pervading sense of the uncanny.
In Exterminating Angel, 20 high-society types at a formal dinner discover that, for no apparent reason, they can't leave their host's drawing room. Social and personal breakdown ensues.
Simon is about an early Christian mystic who lives atop a pillar and simply wants to be left alone to devote himself to prayer. The Devil has other plans.
Criterion does its usual fine job with biographical docs and critical essays. Best are the print interviews with Buñuel, who's thoughtful, articulate and prone to refuse interpretation.
EXTRAS Angel: Buñuel bio doc; Pinal, Arturo Ripstein interviews. Full-frame, b&w. Spanish audio. English subtitles. Booket with critical essay and Buñuel interview. Simon: Buñuel In Mexico doc, Pinal interview. Full-frame, b&w. Spanish audio. English subtitles. Booklet with critical essay and Buñuel interview.