The Devil Is a Woman
Galina | Virginia, USA | 02/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The last film of a great master, his "swan song" was based on the novel "La femme et le pantin" written by Pierre Louÿs. The novel has been adapted to the screen eight times, and among the films are Josef Von Sternberg's "The Devil Is a Woman" with Marlene Dietrich, Julien Duvivier's "La Femme et le Pantin" with Brigitte Bardot, and The Woman and the Puppet (1920) directed by Reginald Barker with Geraldine Farrar, American opera star from the Metropolitan Opera (1906-1922), one of the great beauties of her day, as well as one of the great voices of all time. It is not surprising that Luis Bunuel chose for his film the story of obsession, desire and all kinds of obstacles, including social, religious, and sexual that make it impossible to fulfill. All his films are explorations of the same theme, starting with the early "L'Âge d'or". "That obscure object of desire" is a story of Mathieu, a middle age businessman (Fernando Rey who had given great performances in four Bunuel's films), and a young woman named Conchita -- played by two different actresses (French serene beauty Carole Bouquet and Spanish sensual Ángela Molina) -- who alternately captivates and torments him. The director described his film as a "story of impossibility to own a woman's body". Luis Buñuel claims that there were neither a reason nor an explanation for using two actresses for the same role, he just felt that it would be right: "I don't know why it should be two. It was automatic" (from the DVD interview). When asked, what the obscure object of desire is, Buunuel answered: "I don't know." I think it is the best answer. How could the obscure object of desire be described or defined? Bunuel was able to recreate in the movie the atmosphere of danger, uncertainly and insecurity. Wherever the main character goes in search of his object of desire, there are always bombings, shootings, and theft.
The Last Temptation of Luis Bunuel...
S. Ramani | 12/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"''That Obscure Object of Desire'' is one of the highest achievements in sound cinema, one of the greatest films ever made...you get the idea!!!
It's perhaps Bunuel's greatest film or if not, the one that reflects with finality his philosophy and his view of life. It's a viewpoint that's at one and at the same time pessimistic and compassionate, corrosive and tender, angry and despairing, comic and tragic.
Given that these pardoxes exist simultaneously, Bunuel's infamous decision of having the female character played by two very different actresses(and then being dubbed by a third); as well as casting two of his favourite actors - Fernando Rey and Michel Piccoli in the same role with the former playing the character physically and the latter his voice fits like a glove and seems the least strange in the world of this film. The world of this film moreover is not that far apart from the world proper even if thirty years seperate the time of it's release from today.
Bunuel's film is an adaptation of a famous French novel(which served the basis for Sternberg's ''The Devil Is A Woman'') which I have not read. Yet I have no doubt that Bunuel's film has a sensibility that's entirely different from the text. An old artistocract, Mathieu falls in love with a woman named Conchita but due to their strong will and sense of freedom are unable to physically consummate their relationship. Their love for each other becomes a kind of madness on each character's part as well as part of their game of torturing each other psychologically and spiritually, culminating in violence.
The film is about human beings who are never able to precisely know what they want or desire and in the case of their relationships with human beings what they want or desire from them and what they in turn desire from you. And if the object of desire is forever obscure, than finding it is not only very difficult it's also futile in a world where people are under permanent Swords of Damocles' where terrorist attacks can make one's search for the object of one's desire utterly futile and meaningless.
Throughout his career and his many stages through the different kinds of movies he's made Bunuel has sought to illustrate that the world we live is far from the best of all possible worlds and that humans are forever victims to their own flaws and vanities as well as the world at large. Yet as caustic and sarcastic as his sensibility is, Bunuel's relationship to his characters(with the exception of ''The Discreet Charm...'' and ''Le Fantome de la Liberte'') seem to be of compassion rather than hatred. Only Bunuel I suppose could treat characters like Mathieu and Conchita seriously and find humanity within them despite the absolute violence they inflict on each other.
Casting helps in a big way, Fernando Rey(whose last name appropriately means ''king'') helped bring to life Bunuel's most bizarre characters with charisma and taste. Though we recognize the flaws of Mathieu's character we harbour no dislike for him and fully acknowledge in the scene before last, where he observes a woman knitting a torn, blood stained sheet that he deserves the fleeting sense of peace that he finally recognized as his real ''object of desire''.
Do NOT read anything about this movie or it will be ruined!
Nephilim | Las Vegas, Nevada | 02/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike most, I was lucky enough to see this film for the first time without knowing anything about it. It ran on PBS on a saturday night. I was completely blown away. Later, I wanted to own a copy. I was horrified to see that the accompanying literature pretty much gives away the surprise, right on the box. The surprise has been ruined for 90% of the people who are lucky enough to enjoy this surrealistic experience of a movie. In summary, this movie pretty much says it all about the relationship between man and woman. Enough said."