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That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) - Luis Bu˝uel

Related: European cinema - surrealist cinema - film - Luis Bu˝uel - 1977

Adapted from: La Femme et le Pantin/The She Devils (1898) - Pierre Louys

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) - Luis Bu˝uel
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Luis Bu˝uel's final film explodes with eroticism, bringing full circle the director's lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Bu˝uel regular Fernando Rey plays Mathieu, an urbane widower, tortured by his lust for the elusive Conchita. With subversive flare, Bu˝uel uses two different actresses in the lead- Carole Bouquet, a sophisticated French beauty, and Angela Molina, a Spanish coquette. Drawn from Pierre Lou s' 1898 novel, "La Femme et le Pantin," That Obscure Object of Desire is a dizzying game of sexual politics punctuated by a terror that harkens back to Bu˝uel's brilliant surrealistic beginnings.

The story of Object is based on a popular erotic novel by one Pierry Louys. Its eroticism has not prevented the book from being filmed several times. Von Sternberg did an adaptation called The Devil is a Woman, with Marlene Dietrich, and Brigette Bardot appeared in one as well. But the adaptation that Bu˝uel was most likely to have seen was a silent version by Jacques de Baroncelli in 1929 Ś several of the scenes in Baroncelli's version are almost exactly re-created in Bu˝uel's some 50 years later. Louys's tale is about sexual frustration, which fits in perfectly with Bu˝uel's own themes, as well as his tendency to disrupt conventional narrative. The story is about woman as temptress and controller of men through her sexuality. Conchita starts out as a serf but soon almost becomes the master. She never succumbs to the temptation of giving her slave Mathieu any satisfaction, and she thinks nothing of making love to a younger, more appealing man right in front of him. Equally so, Bu˝uel never makes consessions to his viewers, altering a film's "reality" at will, yet seducing the viewer with ravishing images.--D.K Holm

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