Buñuel: The Essential Collection | Seven must-sees from the surrealist master

Buñuel Boxset [Blu-ray]

StudioCanal celebrates the work of the Spanish surrealist director Luis Buñuel with an Essential Collection box set featuring re-issues of seven of the director’s most significant films on Blu-ray.

Diary of a Chambermaid

Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
(aka) Le journal d’une femme de chambre
This biting satire of a middle-class French family in 1939 is drawn from Octave Mirbeau’s infamous 1900 novel and was an ideal subject for Buñuel’s particular incisive talents.

Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine, a Parisian chambermaid who ingrains herself in a scandal with her philandering employer (Michel Piccoli). About halfway through, when a child is murdered, the film shifts focus, but Buñuel’s mercurial talent makes it work, while also maintaining our fascination for the narrative. And bubbling away under Buñuel’s dabbling into fetishism and murder is a scathing look at the burgeoning French fascism of the era. In French.

Extras include a documentary and an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière.

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour (1967)
The 50th Anniversary Edition | 4k Restoration

A surrealistic voyage into the mind of a bored, wealthy housewife (Catherine Deneuve), who leads the double life of afternoon prostitution. Buñuel blends memory, fantasy and reality, seamlessly, and it is never certain if what is seen is reality or fantasy. This exquisite and spellbinding film won the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival. In French.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrièere, director Diego Buñuel and Dr Sylvain Mimoun, commentary by professor Peter W Evans, and a trailer.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

The Milky Way

The Milky Way (1969)
(aka) La Voie lactée
Buñuel’s witty, metaphysical romp through Catholic doctrine became the first film in the director’s trilogy about ‘the search for truth’ and was  followed by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty.

The pilgrimage from Paris to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain of two French vagrants (played by Paul Frankeur and Laurent Terzieff) is interrupted by a series of bizarre encounters which end up becoming a trip through the history of heresy set over the last 2000 years.

Slipping through time and sometimes into other characters, the pilgrims keep doggedly on their chosen path, meeting Christ, the Devil, the Marquis de Sade and Delphine Seyrig’s prostitute along the way. It may be hard going and uneven at times, but this crazy tapestry of jokes, arguments and fantasy is never dull and pure Buñuel. In French.

Extras include a documentary, an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans and a trailer.

Tristana

Tristana (1970)
In 1929 Toledo, innocent and devout orphan Tristana (Catherine Deneuve) goes to live with her guardian, Don Lope (Fernando Rey), whose fatherly affection turns to desire. At first, Tristana submits to his advances, but then she falls for a young artist (Franco Nero) and moves to Madrid with him. When she falls gravely ill, Tristana is force to return to Toledo where she finds her prospects changed…

A mischievous mix of passion, social satire and black comedy, this is one of Buñuel’s most enjoyable films, and contains compelling performances from both Rey (whose character was based on Buñuel’s own father) and Deneuve (whose innocence was informed by the director’s younger sister Conchita).

Buñuel’s signature satire is very much on display here, but he never forgets to keep us glued to the central story drawn from the eponymous novel by Benito Pérez Galdós’ – regarded as Spain’s Dickens.  Cinematographer José F Aguayo captures the streets of Toledo in all it’s post-war grittiness, while the bell tower in the city’s Gothic Cathedral and the marble tomb of Cardinal Tavera provide some of film’s most haunting images. In French, and also in Spanish.

Extras include an interview with Franco Nero, a documentary and a trailer.

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
(aka) Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie
Winner of the 1972 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Buñuel’s sly, subversive satire is his surreal masterpiece. Again the director blurs the lines between dreams and realities in this wickedly funny puzzle box in which six middle-class characters try to dine together, but fate intervenes…

Fernando Rey is the ambassador holding the dinner party, while his wife (Delphine Seyrig) would rather make love in the garden – and the constant interruptions include soldiers on manoeuvres and terrorists bursting in…. Written by Bunuel’s frequent collaborator, Jean-Claude Carrière, this the most Buñuel of Bunuel’s canon. In French and Spanish.

Extras include an interview with Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a trailer. In French and Spanish.

The Phantom of Liberty

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
(aka) Le Fantôme de la liberté)
In his penultimate film, the 74-year-old Buñuel shows that he can still make the kind of subversive statements and deeply personal films that he did at the very start of his film-making career with Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or.

It’s impossible to describe the plot of this perversely playful absurdist comedy, as there isn’t one! Instead, it contains short incidents and scenarios collected from throughout Buñuel’s life, arranged in the style of a surreal game where seemingly disconnected ideas are linked by chance encounters.

It all begins with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and ends with a revolution in the zoo: and the succession of surreal incidents in between make this the most anarchically funny of Buñuel’s canon. The most notorious scene features an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls. In French.

Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a photo gallery.

That Obscure Object of Desire

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
(aka) Cet obscur objet du désir
Buñuel’s final film, which earned him, Carrière and producer Serge Silberman the Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a rich, blackly comic, study in sexual obsession.

Fernando Rey (dubbed here by Michel Piccoli) is perfectly cast as middle-aged bourgeois businessman Mathieu, who becomes tortured by his desire for elusive maid, Conchita, played by two actresses, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina. It’s a bizarre concept that works to emphasise the different sides of her character (sophisticated French beauty vs Spanish coquette), whose mesmeric qualities make Mathieu unaware of the terrorist violence occurring around him. The same story was previously filmed in 1935 as The Devil is a Woman with Marlene Dietrich.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, Diego Buñuel, Carlos Saura, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Pierre Lady and Edmond Richard. In French and Spanish.

Buñuel Boxset [Blu-ray]

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About Peter Fuller

Peter Fuller is an award-winning print, radio and television journalist and producer, with over 30 years experience covering film and television, with a special interest in world cinema and popular culture. He is a leading expert on the life and career of Vincent Price and actively promotes the actor's legacy through publications, websites and special events.

Posted on November 6, 2017, in World Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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