Death in the Garden (1956) | Luis Buñuel’s rebellious rumble in the jungle is a surrealist tour de force
From Eureka Entertainment comes Death in the Garden, Luis Buñuel’s surreal adventure film, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series, in a Dual-format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition.
After his colourful 1954 rumble in the jungle with Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (which scored star Dan O’Herlihy a Best Actor Oscar nod), Luis Buñuel adapted José-André Lacour’s novel La mort en ce jardin for the second in his revolutionary triptych exploring the morality and tactics of armed revolution against a right-wing dictatorship. The first was 1956’s Cela s’appelle l’aurore and the last being 1959’s La Fièvre Monte à El Pao.
The action takes place in an unspecified South American outpost where martial law is declared following a miners revolt. Fearing for their lives, rugged adventurer Shark (Georges Marchal), French prostitute Djin (Simone Signoret), dedicated priest Father Lizardi (Michel Piccoli), veteran diamond miner Castin (Charles Vanel), and his deaf-mute daughter Maria (Michèle Girardon), flee into the jungle – but they are unprepared for the dangers that lay ahead…
Death in the Garden is a game of two halves: the first (running around an hour) is pure adventure as the fugitives escape the bloodshed, while the second half sees Buñuel let loose his surreal imaginings and political constructs.
Gorgeously shot in Eastmancolor and making painterly use of the exotic Catemaco and Cosamaloapan locations in Veracruz, Mexico, the film really comes into its own in the jungle with each character undergoing an existential crisis, while Buñuel’s master stroke is the discovery of the wreckage of a passenger plane – the contents of which become symbolic of the bourgeois trappings that our exiles have left behind.
Michel Piccoli (in one of his earliest feature film roles) gets my vote as the film’s stand-out character. His Catholic priest is devout, but also very human; while Georges Marchal makes for a pretty fit action hero, and Simone Signoret is one helluva rough diamond.
This little-seen Buñuel is certainly ripe for rediscovery and a surrealist tour de force.
Available to order from: Amazon http://amzn.to/2oBDNt0
DUAL FORMAT SPECIAL FEATURES:
· 1080p presentation (Blu-ray)
· Uncompressed PCM soundtrack (Blu-ray)
· Optional English subtitles
· Interview with Tony Rayns
· Interview with actor Michel Piccoli
· Interview with film scholar Victor Fuentes
· Masters of Cinema exclusive trailer
· PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, and archival imagery
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 French thriller Les Diaboliques (shortened to Diabolique in this Criterion Collection release) without doubt one of the finest whodunits ever made in the history of cinema and regarded by critics and fans alike as Europe’s answer to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (released five years later). It is, in my books, the mother of all shockers!
Véra Clouzot (the director’s wife) plays Cristiana (aka Cri Cri), the much put-upon wife of a sadistic boarding school head Michel (Paul Meurisse), who is coerced by his mistress Nicole (a tough, forbidding Simone Signoret in one of her best ever roles) into killing him and dumping his body in the school’s swimming pool. But when the pool is later drained, there’s no body and so the mystery begins.
Armed with a hotel key, found on the suit Michel was wearing the night he was killed, Christina begins her own investigation. But she, and Nicole, haven’t countered on the tenacity of a retired detective (Charles Vane) who is determined to prove he’s still got what it takes to solve the crime.
Even 60+ years after its initial release, this haunting thriller has never lost its potency, nor its ability to shock, thanks to a suspenseful script, carefully constructed pacing and the well-developed lead characters. Christina is so religious that she feels damned by her actions, yet Nicole is her polar opposite. Does she feel some affinity with Christina’s plight or is she preying on Christina’s weaknesses? Watching these two characters play off each other is what makes this film so unforgettable.
My favourite scenes are when Nicole and Christina put their murderous plan into action. I found myself watching their every move, hoping and praying nothing goes wrong. But of course it does, and – thanks to Clouzot’s eye – we, the audience, become complicit in the women’s actions.
Watch carefully and you will find that water features heavily throughout. The dripping tap, the highly decorative bath and the swimming pool are all symbols of death, best illustrated by a close-up of the bath drain (which Hitchcock would make his own in Psycho) and the emptying of the pool. So potent an image is the pool that it makes me wonder how many other films turn a swimming pool into a character itself.
Diabolique is a heart-grabbing benchmark in horror film-making and is a must-have for all world cinema fans. Back in 2011, a dual format UK release from Arrow Academy featured a HD transfer of the film from a new restoration of the original negative. Now, The Criterion Collection has released a UK Blu-ray version featuring the same digital restoration and the following special features…
• Uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Selected-scene commentary by French-film scholar Kelley Conway
• New video introduction by Serge Bromberg, codirector of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Inferno”
• New video interview with novelist and film critic Kim Newman
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty