a study of the pedagogical character of the heresies  and moralities  in  the  cinema  of  Luis  Buñuel


Vitor Reia-Baptista, Universidade do Algarve


Spring, 1987


Excertos escolhidos da Tese de Mestrado:

Lund University

Faculty of Human Sciences

Department of Comparative Literature,





I.                INTRODUCTION 



          1. The scope of investigation 

          2. The object of study 

          3. Theories and methods



          1. The scandal years (1929 - 1931)

          2. The oblivion years (1931 - 1951)

          3. The comeback years (1951 - 1954)

          4. The establishment years (1954 - 1960)

          5. The recognition years (1960 - 1970)

          6. The renaissance years (1970 - 1980)

          7. The anthology years (1980 - … ) 



          1. The entomological character 

          2. The instinctive character of remembering 

          3. The memorable character of the records 

          4. The secret life of the humans 

          5. The pedagogical character of morality 

          6. The pedagogical character of heresy


V.      THE FILMS 

          1. The titles 

          2. The characters

          3. The themes

          4. The functions











                                     Por donde  quiera que fuie

                                     la razón atropellé,

                                     la virtud escarnecí,

                                     a la justicia burlé y a las mujeres vendí.

                                     Yo a las cabañas bajé,

                                     yo a los palacios subí,

                                     y a los claustros escalé

                                     y en todas partes dejé memoria amarga de mí.

                                     Ni reconoci sagrado, ni hubo ocasión ni lugar

                                     por mi audacia respectado;

                                     ni en distinguir me he parado

                                     al clérigo del seglar.


                                                                    Don Juan Tenorio  0





      The«heretical cinema of Luís Buñuel», or the «heretic Buñuel» are expressions that have been used before in different contexts1 that, in one way or another, relate the concept of heresy with the cinematographic activity of Luis Buñuel. Nevertheless, the existing heresies in Buñuel's work have, besides the generally recognizable theological meaning in reference to the Catholic  iconography, a much deeper range of significations in the field that I shall call «human entomology», namely turning his films into authentic manuals of subversive (heretical) pedagogy, acting upon the subconsciousness of the spectators in the same way that many other fairy tales, fables, parables, metaphors, aphorisms and allegories do: as exercises of observation and catharsis.

The scope of this study is not to present the rich biographical aspects that could support the former statements, since this task has already been done by many authors including Buñuel himself, with the help of Jean- -Claude Carrière, in the magnificent autobiography Mon dernier soupir 2, but rather to analyze the pedagogical value of his work, which, I believe,  is the most important characteristic of the Buñuelian cinema, giving him a unique place in the history of cinematographic creation.

All of his films are major contributions to the development of the genre, or paradigm, that can be called «poem-film». But their  value is not limited to the paradigmatic dimension, which is  comparable with those of Griffith, Eisenstein, John Ford, Hitchcock, Bergman and Godard. In fact, they have another dimension as sources of subversion of the reading mechanisms that the spectators have been acquiring along with their cinematographic culture. The films of Buñuel are prose-poems that put the public systematically into the dilemma of choosing among several criteria of language , rendering the conditions for the development of new criteria of reading. It is this dimension that I identify as the pedagogical value of Buñuel's work. Such a dimension has also been developed by filmmakers like Welles, Losey, Fellini, Pasolini and again Godard among others, but never as consistently as Buñuel did it.

Although, it is not the personality of Luis Buñuel that is the object of study for this work,  it is, nevertheless, necessary to refer to some of the influences that marked and led him into such a devotion for thematic coherence and semantic integrity, the two corner stones of the "moralism" which can be considered as a third dimension of his films and which can be comparable only to the moral structures of Hitchcock, John Ford or Fritz Lang .

It is also necessary to distinguish, among the large group of Buñuel's biographers, those authors who  pointed out such characteristics as the basis of the Buñuelian world, like the Spaniard J. Francisco Aranda, whose work, Luis Buñuel, Biografia critica 3, is, in spite of some exacerbated nationalism, still the most complete and well elaborated study of Buñuel's personal complexity.

One could ask if there is still a reason to write about Buñuel or his work. I asked myself this question and found an affirmative answer, since almost everything has been written about Buñuel and his work, but not about its  pedagogical value. My task will be an attempt to accomplish a new approach: to analyze Buñuel's systematic observations of the human instincts as heresies and moralities in interaction with the pedagogical effect of their cinematographic equivalents.

To conclude this introduction I would like to repeat Buñuel's opinion about  "le pédantisme et le jargon" that could be a shot right between the eyes of this work, its method and its author:

"Je déteste le pédantisme et le jargon. Il m'est arrivé de rire aux larmes en lisant certains articles des Cahiers du Cinéma. A Mexico, nommé président honoraire du Centro de Capacitacion cinematografica, haute école du cinéma, je suis invité un jour à visiter les lieux. On me présente quatre ou cinq professeurs. Parmi eux, un jeune homme correctement vêtu et rougissant de timidité. Je lui demande ce qu'il enseigne. Il me répond: « La sémiologie de l'image clonique.» Je l'aurais assassiné."4

Consequently, I take Buñuel's opinion  as  heresy and not as  dogma, trying to turn the master's gun away from the face of the present work.







1. The scope of investigation.


It is my aim to analyze the pedagogical value of the films of Luis Buñuel as an intrinsic dimension that results from the binominal conjunction formed by the two main components that are present in all his work: heresy and morality.

Heresy gives to the works the value of rebellion against the established dogmas both in the thematic and in the semantic fields, forcing the spectator to assume, consciously or unconsciously, a position in face of the several reading possibilities that are presented to him.

Morality confers to the works a consistent body through the repetition of themes, functions and dramatis personae developing a structure of narrativity  from the confinable rules (dogmas?) that are adequate to the pedagogical (moral) aim.

I am using the expression pedagogical aim without making any special reference to the personal intents that may, or may not, have existed in Buñuel's mind, but enclosing the different reading possibilities that their cinematographic equivalents (see definition on p. 10) may present to a given audience with a given film culture, for example a contemporary European Judeo-Christian film audience.

The investigation work is subordinate to a hypothesis that is articulated on three propositions:


a) All films are heretical.

b) All films are moralities.

c) All films are open works.


It is also the aim of the investigation to confront these propositions with the field of human entomology in an attempt to determine their signification to another binominal conjunction : Buñuel's empirical observations versus the spectator's cultural reading, i.e., voyeurism versus catharsis.



2. The object of study.                                                      


It is the totality of the films that constitutes, mainly, the object of study of the investigation, but the Buñuelian complexity is so cohesive that it becomes impossible to completely ignore his literary works, especially that summarizing opus Mon dernier soupir , which provides important comments on a great quantity of relevant matters for this study and which opens some possibilities of insight into the filmmaker's working method.



3. Theories and methods.                                                              


The proposition that considers the films as open works also refers directly to the methodological strategy which I intend to use and which can be defined as the analysis of the relationship between the contemplation and the utilization of a work of art with the qualities of an open work. The pedagogic implications of this relationship, that Umberto Eco called the "poetics of the open work", were the object of study in his book L'oeuvre ouverte  and can be summarized with the following citation:

"…si une forme artistique ne peut fournir un substitut de la conaissance  scientifique, on peut y voir en revanche une métaphore épistémologique:  à chaque époque, la manière dont se structurent les diverses formes d'art révèle - au sens large, par similitude, métaphore, résolution du concept en figure - la manière dont la science ou, en tout cas, la culture contemporaine voient la réalité".1


For my work, it is of great relevance to identify the epistemological metaphors that the films can represent within the field of human entomology and consequently to determine how those metaphors can be contemplated and utilized within a contemporary culture.

Buñuel's metaphors cannot be analyzed with the traditional instruments of literary criticism, which, despite their unfitness, have been used too many times as instruments of film criticism. To approach the pedagogical value of the Buñuelian imagery requires more than a mere identification of the tenors and the vehicles in the metaphors. It requires, essentially, the identification of functions and themes, patterns of heresy and of moralism, signs and contexts of signification. This means we are not too far away from Vladimir Propp's study of the folk tales, which he defined as a "study of the folktale according to the functions of its dramatis personae"2.


The films of Luis Buñuel (and the cinema in general) assume, indeed, the role of the ancient folk tales in their relationship to myths, religion and transcendental mysteries. They are  modern  tales with specific functions, and we can find some structural similarity between these and those analyzed by Propp in the folk tales, which he formulated as follows:

"Function must be taken as an act of dramatis personae, which is defined from the point of view of its significance for the course of action of a tale as whole".3


We could, also, easily adopt his first thesis as a point of reference for the cinema and the nature of its functions:

"1. Functions serve as stable, constant elements in  folktales, independent of who performs them, and how they are fulfilled by the dramatis personae. They constitute the components  of a folktale".4

Unfortunately, we cannot so easily apply to the cinema Propp's second and third thesis. The number of functions known to the films is not necessary limited, even if it can be so in the case of the most closed genres, like the western for example5; nor is the sequence of functions always identical. Quite the contrary, the films of Buñuel, in their quality of open works, are examples of non-identical unlimited sequences of functions. They are, in fact, heretical approaches to the folk tales, but tales nevertheless. This means that we can lean on some theoretical support from Propp's formalistic approach, but that we cannot completely follow his method for the analysis of our material. However, and although it is not my aim to accomplish a morphology of the Buñuelian poem-film (which, per se, is a very interesting task for future research - since Propp's fourth thesis is, at least partly, adequate for the Buñuelian cinema: all films are of one type  - morality acts of heresy, and it would be a fascinating task to demonstrate that they are so even in regard to their structure), I will, nevertheless, use some of Propp's functional nomenclature to designate the most relevant functions in the films.

The insufficiencies in the methods of traditional literary criticism and of formal-structuralism when applied to filmic analysis may be compensated with elements that determine another specific matter of expression that embodies the cinematographic metaphors: photography.

It is especially interesting to determine the metaphoric implications of the notion Equivalence.

For this determination I use the concept of cinematographic equivalent which I borrow from Alfred Stieglitz's idea of photographic equivalents, i.e., photographs that look like photographs6 and that Susan Sontag defined even more precisely: "‘‘Equivalents’’, that is, statements of his (Stieglitz) inner feelings." And developing a larger frame for the relationship between those inner feelings and their contemplation, she continues:

" Photography is the paradigm of an inherently equivocal connection between self and the world - its version of the ideology of realism sometimes dictating an effacement of the self in relation to the world, sometimes authorizing an aggressive relation to the world which celebrates the self.7


This concept is rather important, since it reminds us of the relationship between the heretical and moral inner statements and their  cinematographic equivalency to the "real" referents that may, or may not, support a heretical or a moral reading.

Such pluralism of reading possibilities is exhorted by the oxymoric character of Buñuel's metaphors, where apparently contradictory meanings are consequently used in some unconfessed pataphysical (surrealistic?, dadaistic?, anarco-marxistic?) aim. It is a pluralism of signs and of contexts of signification which turns the semiosis behind those meanings, their denotative and connotative paradigms, into a clinical instrument that offers some accuracy to the analysis, and although Buñuel hated such jargon, it is he himself who exposes the problem as an argument against the "monolithic" views of the neo-realist cinematography and of the daily media:

"In a conversation with Zavattini, I explained to him a few months ago my disagreement with neo-realism. As we dined together the first example which offered itself to me was that of the glass of wine. For a neo-realist, I said to him, a glass is a glass and nothing more; you see it taken from the sideboard, filled with drink, taken to the kitchen where the maid washes it and perhaps breaks it, which will result in its return or otherwise, etc. But this same glass, contemplated by different beings, can be a thousand different things, because each one charges what he sees with affectivity; no one sees things as they are, but as his desires and his state of soul make him see. I fight for the cinema which will show me this kind of glass, because this cinema will give me an integral vision of reality, will broaden my knowledge of things and people, will open up to me the marvelous world of the unknown, of all that which I find neither in the newspaper nor in the street".8


The poetics of the open work and the relationship between equivalents and referents also represent, in addition to the obvious methodological devices, the theoretical background for the hypothesis. This background and the dualism of the binominal conjunctions that form the material,  sometimes developed a rather strong temptation to organize  that same material according to a dialectical vision of the epistemological field. And again, in the same essay (to which I will return later as a rare example of the filmmaker's traditional pedagogical activity), it is Buñuel who reminds us of his ideological influences:

"I take for mine the words of Engels, who defined the function of the novelist (understood in this case as that of the film-maker): “The novelist will have accomplished his task honourably when, through a faithful depiction of authentic social relations, he will have destroyed the conventional representation of the nature of these relations, shaken the optimism of the bourgeois world and obliged the reader to question the permanence of the existing order, even if he does not directly propose a conclusion to us, even if he does not openly take sides”".9


But in the work of Buñuel, what first seems to be an antagonism, generally turns later into an unity of purposes, rendering the most accurate dialectics into a source of uncertainty, reminding us of Buñuel's systematic efforts to escape from the theoretical models that tried to encompass his work. And they are many. In the following chapter we will try to look at the most important of those attempts.




   Luis Buñuel is certainly one of the filmmakers about whom one of the largest numbers of biographies, essays, articles, statements, reviews, etc… has been written, not only in books and periodicals of a strictly cinematographic character, but even in publications with other aims either artistic or literary, political, sociopsychological, etc…, which gives a good idea of the importance that the author's work has assumed in several fields of knowledge. I have counted, up to 1984, and touching only a half dozen languages, in addition to Buñuel's autobiographies, his literary anthology, the film scripts and the 57 interviews he gave, 75 books exclusively dedicated to his person or his work, 34 books with relevant chapters or larger sections on his work, 28 testimonies of great importance in other books (like that of Dali in his Secret life of Salvador Dali ), 109 articles about the filmmaker in general and 578 articles or small essays about specific films or production periods1.

To analyze in detail all those writings would certainly not be very fruitful to the aim of this study. It is, nevertheless, important to consider those that embody the principal facets of approach that have been tried during the different periods of his work. Some of those writings became important sources of information and of stigmatization with a great influence upon most of the later research. It is mainly those that I will refer to here.



1. The scandal years (1929 - 1931).


The first text that assumed some importance in the process of ‘getting to know Buñuel’ was the script of UN CHIEN ANDALOU in connection with the several statements that accompanied its prints in the Revue du Cinéma  Nr 5, November 1929, and in LA RÉVOLUTION SURRÉALISTE  Nr 12, 1929. The simultaneity of those publications provoked the classic Buñuelian statement that appeared as an introduction to the text in the surrealistic magazine and which proclaimed that the film was nothing else than:       "… un désespéré, un passionné appel au meurtre."2

It is about UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L'AGE D'OR that we can notice several articles, essays and reviews that begin to develop the notion of an author with the capacity to impression different aesthetic-ideological fields beginning with the articles in La Revue du Cinéma  and CINÉMONDE (11/12/1930) to LA RÉVOLUTION SURRÉALISTE  and the manifest of the surrealists about L'AGE D'OR in 19313, and passing through Le Figaro (Richard Pierre Bodin - 7/12/1930) and L'Humanité (Léon Moussinac -  7/12/1930). Whether it was the artistic success, the ideological admission or the pure scandal,  the filmmaker's name was no longer just another name. It was beginning to be known even outside the universes of Spanish and French languages, although primarily still in Paris, as for example the article Divine Orgie  written by Henry Miller for The New Review, Paris,1931.



2. The oblivion  years (1931 - 1951).


Henry Miller would be one of the first to publicize something about Buñuel outside Spain and France but it would take until 1939, almost ten years after the unnoticed passage of the filmmaker in Hollywood, which Miller bitterly establishes:

"… this belated tribute to Buñuel may serve to arouse the curiosity of those who have never heard the name before. Buñuel's name is not unknown to Hollywood, that I know. Indeed, like many other men of genious whom the Americans have got wind of, Luis Buñuel was invited to come to Hollywood and give of his talent. In short, he was invited to do nothing and draw his breath. So much for Hollywood."4


Miller's writing was , indeed, rather important for attracting the attention of those who never had heard Buñuel's name before, and especially important for the recognition that the filmmaker would receive from some intellectual American circles.

It is in connection with Buñuel's presence in the U. S. A., where he, in fact, returned in 1939, that the next major testimony appears. It was the Secret Life of Salvador Dali, that came out in 1942 carrying inquisitory denouncements of Buñuel's ideology ( see p. 39), obliging him to resign his post at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and unleashing the process that, indirectly, would lead the filmmaker to Mexico, after another inglorious sojourn in Hollywood. Even Dali's statements about the origin of UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L'AGE D'OR would generate some controversy about the true author of those films. Today, almost everybody renders the painter  credit as co-writer for the script of UN CHIEN ANDALOU, but his involvement is not that obvious in the case of L'AGE D'OR.

During the twenty years  between 1931 and 1951 there was not so much written about Buñuel that is worth mentioning besides the works already referred to by Miller and Dali. Nevertheless, there were some exceptions as the articles published in the Spanish periodical A B C  by Francisco Marroquín in 1934 and collected in the book La pantalla y el telón 5.  Also the article about LAS HURDES by César Arconada in Nr 2 ofNuestro Cinema, 1935 can be considered as an exceptional review for this period.

It is also necessary to mention Buñuel's autobiography, originally written in English for the Museum of Modern Art, N. Y. in 1938, although it remained unpublished until 1970 when Francisco Aranda utilized and quoted it in his biografia crítica 6.

Buñuel was also mentioned in a couple of articles about the surrealistic movement and some sporadic articles about revisions of UN CHIEN ANDALOU continued to appear. Among these, one was especially interesting. It was the article by François Piazza, Considérations psychanalytiques sur Un chien andalou  in Psyché  of Jan- Feb, 1949, which explained the film from a Freudian point of view, a way of reading that would stay more or less present in much of what was to come.



         3. The comeback years (1951 - 1954). 


It would be with the film LOS OLVIDADOS (50), which abruptly awakened the critics, that Buñuel would regain a prominent place in the universe of cinema writing.

In 1951 and 1952 appeared several articles of some importance and it is fair to distinguish those of Georges Sadoul in Les Lettres Françaises (22/11/51), Jacques Doniol-Valcroze in Cahiers du Cinéma  (Nr7, 1951 & Nr13, 52), Ado Kyrou in L'Age du Cinéma  (Nr4-5, 51) and André Bazin in Esprit (15/1/52).  Again we notice that it is essentially in France that the filmmaker is recognized, especially since Franco's censorship controlled the Spanish press. And in spite of the success achieved by LOS OLVIDADOS at the Cannes festival of 1951 (prize of the international critique and prize for the best direction), I could only notice one article written in English, that of John Maddison in Sight and Sound  (Nr 4, 1952).

Yet, between LAS HURDES and LOS OLVIDADOS, Buñuel had directed two other films, GRAN CASINO (46) and EL GRAN CALAVERA (49); been the producer of four, DON QUINTIN EL AMARGAO (35), LA HIJA DE JUAN SIMON(35), ¿QIUEN ME QUIERE A MI?(36) and CENTINELA ALERTA! (36); supervised one ESPAÑA LEAL EN ARMAS (37); written one SI USTED NO PUEDE, YO SI (50); and re-edited one with excerpts from TRIUMPH DES WILLENS (L. Riefenstahl-38) and from VUURDOOP (H. Bertram-39) (39).

None of these films was the object of any article or essay during that period and they have been considered for a long time as subproducts of quotidian survival. Today, we can notice a slight change of this position.

Between 1950 and 1954 Buñuel directed ten films and the quantity of articles about his work increased correspondently. We can also notice the first texts with important analytical parts dedicated to Buñuel, as was  the case of Ado Kyrou's Le surréalisme au cinéma 7 and of Francisco Aranda's Cinema de vanguardia en España 8, as we will see  they are also two of the most important Buñuelian writers in general.



4. The establishment years (1954 - 1960). 


During this period Buñuel becomes, again, an established authority in the cinema world, directly connected with the revolutionary years of surrealism, and we can, in fact, establish a concrete starting point for this process. It is the interview given to André Bazin and Jacques Doniol-Valcroze at the Cannes festival of 1954 and published in Nr 36 of the Cahiers du Cinéma  of that year, where Buñuel makes some statements about his films in a way that will influence all the writing that will come afterwards, especially in what concerns the connections between EL and L'AGE D'OR. Besides the influence that this interview had upon the way of looking at the «new» Buñuel (post - LOS OLVIDADOS), it also shows the ignorance about Buñuel's work that had previously characterized the contemporary criticism. Bazin and Valcroze show that well through their introduction, where they report how some periodicals treated the personage of Luis Buñuel during those days:

"Durant cette manifestation quelques feuilles (momentanément) locales s'obstinaient quotidiennement à parler de son  «masque cruel»  et répétaient sans se lasser que son mot favorit était l'adjectif «féroce».9


But even the interviewers show, through their questions and interjections, how little, in fact, was known about Buñuel's work:

"D.V.- Quel est l'ordre chronologique de vos films après Los Olvidados?

L.B.- Après Los Olvidados j'ai fait Suzanna…" "…et puis El Bruto…"

"D.V.- Ensuite vous avez tourné Robinson Crusoé  ?

L.B.- Après El Bruto  j'ai fait quatre films.

A.B. et D.V.- Ah!"10


Since that time, the quantity, and quality, of studies on Buñuel's work has increased steadily, including, among many others, interviews by François Truffaut and Robert Hughes, testimonies by Emmanuel Roblès and Gabriel Arout,  essays  by Jacques Trebouta , Henri Agel, Ado Kyrou,… and a never ending number of articles by the most prominent film writers like Georges Sadoul, J. Francisco Aranda, Octavio Paz, Italo Calvino, Lindsay Anderson, Eric Rohmer and Tony Richardson among many others, establishing, all of them, the notion of Luis Buñuel as a major auteur.

It is now necessary to point out the studies that marked, from different point of views, the recognition of the filmmaker's different approaches.



5. The recognition years (1960 - 1970).


In 1960 appeared  Nr 13 of the collection PREMIER PLAN  with the title Luis Buñuel. It was a text written by Freddy Buache, a Marxist writer who shared Buñuel's opinion about the «robbed» character of the cinema in general. Buache identifies the robbery with the way the capitalist means of production formed the cinema, as a

"…moyen d'expression constamment dépossédé de sa force spécifique par la collusion du capitalisme et du vertuisme réactionaire."11

                                        It is within this medium that Buñuel, according to Buache, strikes a blow

"…à plein écran les cyclones de l'amour fou."  Breaking  "…les tabous des traditions rassurantes, les douces illusions du comfort moral établi sur des croyances qui aliénent l'homme au lieu de le glorifier."12

                                       This notion of struggle against alienation is very important to Buache's distinction of Buñuel's avant-gardism, since he considers it to be the main characteristic that differentiates the filmmaker from  the representatives of «la première avant-garde française» who were doing no more than putting some "…élégantes ou surprenantes moulures au décorum bourgeois…".13

It is leaning on the contrast between those notions of avant-gardism that Buache developes his analysis, concluding that the role of the films (their moral sense, I would say) is to show that it is necessary and possible to change the world:

"Au contraire, l'avant-garde de Buñuel est révolutionaire, dans le sens fort, destructif et reconstructif, que implique ce terme. Fondée sur la révolte, sur la haine du mensonge pieux ou non, elle fait confiance à l'homme libéré des fausses idoles et postule que le monde peut et doit être changé."14

In the summer of 1960,  Nr 21 of FILM CULTURE  came out with some important pages on Buñuel: one article by Emilio Garcia Riera, THE ETERNAL REBELLION OF LUIS BUNUEL (pp.42-60) and another by Octavio Paz, NAZARIN (pp. 60-62), and an introductory statement, A STATEMENT  (pp. 41-42) by Luis Buñuel himself where he treats again his precious theme of the robbed cinema (the ordinary, dominant, commercial cinema), explaining why he is so indifferent to the large circuit productions, showing some of the reasons he was led to his Mexican themes and giving some authority to the former analysis of Buache in such a direct way that I find it necessary to reproduce a larger part of it:

" The screen is a dangerous and wonderful instrument, if a free spirit uses it. It is the superior way of expressing the world of dreams, emotions and instinct."  but  " We rarely see good cinema in the mammoth productions, or in the works that have received the praise of critics and audience. The particular story, the private drama of an individual, cannot interest - I believe - anyone worthy of living in our time. If a man in the audience shares the joys and sorrows of a character on the screen, it should be because that character reflects the joys and sorrows of all society and so the personal feelings of that man in the audience. Unemployment, insecurity, the fear of war, social injustice, etc., affect all men of our time, and thus, they also affect the individual spectator. But when the screen tells me that Mr. X is not happy at home and finds amusement with a girl-friend whom he finally abandons to reunite himself with his faithful wife, I find it all very moral and edifying, but it leaves me completely indifferent."15


In the end of Garcia Riera's article comes one of the first Buñuelian filmographies in English which certainly helped call the attention of the American avant-gardists to the less known films. Also interesting was the attitude of the editor Jonas Mekas who included, (pp. 39 - 41), an excerpt from  A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis  by Sigmund Freud (1920) using the title THE DREAM WORK, appealing inevitably to the association between the oneiric character of Buñuel's films and the exposition of Freud about the "transformation of thoughts into visual images", thus reinforcing the tradition initiated by François Piazza.

In 1962 appeared one of the obligatory books whenever one studies Buñuel: the work of Ado Kyrou luis bunuel. If Buache opened a way to the possibilities of analysing the filmmaker's work from a Marxist point of view, Kyrou established for all eternity the surrealistic weight of Luis Buñuel:

"…sans Bunuel le cinéma surréaliste eût été une simple velléité..."16,     although on many aspects he agrees with Buache:

"Bunuel oublia toutes les règles et composa le grand poème de l'amour fou."17


Kyrou calls  also our attention,  for the first time in a systematized way, to the homogeneity of Buñuel's surrealistic texts and even to his earlier film reviews, starting , thus, a tradition in Buñuelian studies which tries  to integrate the author's literary work with the cinematographic. This book would be translated into English in 196318 and thereby become a major source of Buñuelian knowledge for Anglo-American scholars.

Also in 1962 appears the first volume of études cinématographiques dedicated to Buñuel, an important collection of essays edited by Michel Estève. Especially interesting is the essay by Claude Gauter BUÑUEL ET L'ANTIPHRASE 19, which considers all the work of Buñuel to be founded upon the device of antiphrasis. In the second volume, that came out in the beginning of 1963, special importance is assumed by Michel Estève's essay, L'ANGE EXTERMINATEUR - LE HUIS-CLOS DE LA CONDITION HUMAINE, an existential approach to the moral sense of the film:

"…chez Sartre, comme chez Buñuel, une parabole nous est proposée, qui met en accusation la condition humaine."20


The existentialist point of view was a rather new one in the universe of Buñuelian criticism and gave it a new dimension.

In 1963 Allan Lovell published, with the support of the British Film Institute, his text ANARCHIST CINEMA  where he aligns Luis Buñuel, Jean Vigo and Georges Franju as the three musketeers of film anarchism, since there is at the heart of all their films:

"…a conflict between the values of the established forces of society, like the church,the military, the bourgeoisie,etc., and individual human values like freedom, love, spontaneity and growth."21


One could say that Lovell's approach tried to assume the character of a symbiosis between a Marxist and a surrealist point of view, but Lovell's essay presents some clumsy notions about the role that each filmmaker really did play, even in spite of a slight attempt to differentiate Buñuel from the other two when he recognizes that the Buñuelian universe is special:

"There is no schematic division of the world into the innocent and the corrupt." "For Bunuel, reality is ‘anarchist’."22


As we will see, there will be others on this track.

In 1964 Carlos Rebolledo published the book LUIS BUNUEL which was organizeded in three parts. The two first parts were written by Frédéric Grange and are of minor importance, but the last one, written by Rebolledo himself,  is rather interesting in its attempt to place the filmmaker's work in the context of the Spanish picaresque heritage, especially with regard to the destruction of the epic hero and the developing of the anti-hero like Lazarillo de Tormes, Gaston Modot and Archibaldo de la Cruz, a bunch of personages sharing the same characteristics:

"… la négation délibérée du héros traditionel, tant dans sa personnalité globale que dans le détail de ses actes."23


This observation is rather useful for the analysis of functions that are generally connected with traditional heroes and which may be difficult to identify. Rebolledos' recognition of Buñuel as a carrier of the picaresque literary tradition not only explains the complexity of the Buñuelian anti-heroes, but also sheds some light upon those characteres that we generally identify as common citizens of the Buñuelian world, like the wellknown blind people and dwarfs:

"Le théme traditionnel des aveugles, des infirmes et des monstres est donc passé directement de l'univers picaresque à l'oeuvre buñuelienne. Dans les deux cas ils incarnent le refus d'une morale traditionelle devenue inopérante."24

The remarks of Rebolledo are, indeed, of great importance to the identification and understanding of Buñuel's rich gallery of dramatis personae.

In 1966 a Swedish book came out written by the two Danes Ove Brusendorff and Poul Malmkjær called EROTIK I FILMEN  25, with a chapter dedicated to Buñuel and South America where the authors remind us of the strong erotic charge that usually impregnates Buñuel's films and which, in general, takes the same shape within different plots, like the washing and voluptuous kissing of feet at the church in EL versus the sucking kisses that Lya Lys applies to the statue's toe in L'AGE D'OR. The recognition of the pure erotic tones in the films is not so obvious in other studies and essays, especially those that depart from a more social or sociopsychological point of view, perhaps as a result of some reminiscent syndrome from the time when Buñuel was regarded as a «perversity case». Brusendorf's and Malmkjær's small chapter is no less important for reminding us of that fact, or as Kyrou put it when recalling Buñuel's confession about the canalization of the sexual drift, by the Jesuits, through masturbation facing the statues of the holy virgin Mary, mother of Christ:

"Tout enfant éduqué chez les curés en garde quelque chose."26


Still in Scandinavia, one should name the books of Artur Lundkvist, Buñuel 27 and, again, of Poul Malmkjær, Buñuel. Statements og anti-statements 28, that assumed some importance for Scandinavian scholars.

The last important book of this period is from 1967 and was written by Raymond Durgnat with the title LUIS BUÑUEL. It organizes a systematic analysis of the films, giving some emphasis to the repetition of themes and their variations, searching for a synthesis of all the earlier approaches. In his synthetic way, Durgnat proposes the classification of ‘Anarcho-Marxist’ (Lovell's influence?) as an eventually not "bad description of Buñuel's general orientation."29. Durgnat even makes some considerations, in the chapter Style and Anti-Style  30, about some interesting semantic aspects of the films as signs of homogeneity.

But we cannot finish this period's account without mentioning an interview from 1965 given in Madrid to Juan Cobos and Gonzalo de Erice where Buñuel states the following:

"Je n'ai jamais voulu démontrer quoi que ce soit dans un film. Le cinéma politique ou didactique ne m'intéresse pas. Sur ce point, on ne peut rien me reprocher. Mais quoi que je fasse, ils trouveront toujours un double sens."31


Feeling the «uncomfortable» mantle of recognition, the old surrealist flounders it away, conscious of the increasing difficulties within the art of scandal. Or, just fooling us once more…



6. The renaissance years (1970 - 1980).


This period represents the time when the research on Buñuel is coming to its mature age, implying a rebirth of the filmmaker's image, not essentially as  Marxist, surrealist, anarchist, atheist, or any other ‘ist’, but as a major personage in the world of cinematographic creation, (artistic/industrial/commercial), who achieved with his work (work of art/industrial/commercial product) an unquestionable place in the history of the cinema.

The great initiator of this period is Francisco Aranda with his serious research on Buñuel's personal complexity, work premises and achievements. The result of this research came out in book form with the title Luis Buñuel, biografia crítica  in 1970 and was translated into English in 1975 with the title LUIS BUÑUEL: A Critical Biography . This is still the most important biography; it constituted a major contribution to the new and more ambitious character of the following writing and research.

Another important contribution to this new way of writing was the book KÆTTEREN BUÑUEL  by Martin Drouzy. He departs from the premise that "Buñuel's film universe is not a dualistic world, where the persons are divided in two separate camps"32. Then he offers us three keys to understanding how Buñuel's three main tendences ( surrealist, marxist and atheist) influence and combat each other. Although the correspondent division in the filmography to those keys may seem rather artificial (surrealist= UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L'AGE D'OR; Marxist= LAS HURDES to CELLA S'APPELLE L'AURORE; atheist= NAZARIN to LA VOIE LACTÉE), Drouzy leaves a door open to the possibilities of interaction among those keys and admitting the existence of others. He concludes that from the interaction of those tendencies, the personage who comes out more strongly is the heretic, a conclusion that I assume as a postulate for the development of my study.

Also in 1970, and later in 1975, Freddy Buache expanded the original 1960 text in PREMIER PLAN  and added to it some new chapters dealing with the recent films, but mainly, he enlarged substantially his intellectual environment of approach 33.

As a result of the lively theoretical discussion since the end of the sixties, especially with regard to the application of semiotic studies to the cinema, there appeared a great number of essays that, inevitably, found in Luis Buñuel a vast and rich ore of significance to explore. It is not by hazard that some of the most intelligent texts in this field do come from Italy (Eco being one of the most prominent knights in that struggle) and among them one should name the work of Cristina Bragaglia La realtà dell'imagine in Luis Buñuel 34, where notions of "illusion" and "reality", "subillusion" and "surreality" play important roles.

It is also necessary to name two Spanish essays of major importance.

One is from 1973, BUÑUEL (cine e ideología)  by Manuel Alcalá, who developes a syncretic approach to the ideological complexity behind Buñuel's work and world, expressing the omnipresent rebellion in two words: liberty and love35.

The other one, from 1976, is El Ojo de Buñuel, by Fernando Cesarman36, and it is an authentic psychoanalytical odyssey through the Buñuelian seas of subconsciousness, where the author, departing from a very specific point of view, comes to the same old conclusion:

"Le cinéma de Buñuel est toujours le même, malgré de nouveaux acteurs, d'autres personnages, des techniques plus modernes, des histoires différentes. A la lumière d'un autre angle, d'un autre projecteur chaque film raconte les mêmes choses que le précédent: comme chaque homme voit le monde et découvre, jour après jour, rêve après rêve, un nouveau point de vue pour le regarder. Comme un rêve à l'intérieur d'un rêve…"37


As I have already pointed out, these patterns of repetition constitute one of the cores in the moral - pedagogical architecture of Buñuel's film tales.

Finally, one cannot speak about architecture and Buñuel without a reference, again, to Drouzy. In 1978 he published his book LUIS BUNUEL ARCHITECTE DU REVE, which was an important contribution closing this period. Drouzy worked with the thematic and semantic structures to point out how Buñuel constructs his oneiric reality in architectonic symmetry with the real (diegetic) dreams. But he also introduced a new dimension into Buñuelian studies, namely the question of the economic viability of the construction:

"Car le cinéma - faut-il le rappeler? - n'est pas seulement une technique et un art, il est aussi une industrie et un commerce." "Un film non tourné n'est pas un film, mais seulement l'esquisse d'un film, au mieux un morceaux de littérature. De ce point de vue le réalisateur de cinéma est dans la même situation que l'architecte, qui lui non plus ne peut se satisfaire de traits sur un papier."38


Drouzy shows how the artistic coherence in Buñuel's work (although he prefers to speak of "produit" instead of "œuvre") is also an economic and industrial coherence where the filmmaker embodies both the artist and the artisan. Such a model constitutes, indeed, a true trial by fire for the work (produit/œuvre); i.e., in spite of Drouzy's accurate remarks about the production conditions of the filmmaker in general and those of Buñuel in particular, the truth is that we must admit, in Buñuel's case, the fact of an achieved work. And this does not turn him, or his work, into a less interesting object of study.





7. The anthology years (1980 - ...).                                     


After Buñuel's last film CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR (77), the flow of books, essays and articles did not slow. But now the major tendence in the writing is that of making a balance of all the items that arose from or around Buñuel.

Among those attempts, it is fundamental to name the anthologies organized by Agustin Sánchez Vidal, LUIS BUÑUEL, OBRA LITERARIA 39, and LUIS BUÑUEL, OBRA CINEMATOGRAFICA 40. Besides the texts and the summaries of the films, these books are enormously rich in ‘off-the- -record’ information, personal notes and documents gathered by Sánchez Vidal in many conversations with Buñuel and other  people very close to the filmmaker.

Also important are the catalogue of the Portuguese Cinematheque Luis Buñuel 41 edited in connection with a complete screening of all his films, and, in some way, even the anthology LUIS BUÑUEL 42 by Raymond Lefèvre.

From a more analytical point of view, one should  name The Discreet Art of LUIS BUÑUEL 43, a reading of his, so called, major films by Gwynne Edwards. And from a cultist point of view it is absolutely necessary to name the work of Marcel Oms don luis buñuel 44.

Even the already mentioned anthology of essays in criticism, The  World of LUIS BUÑUEL 45 edited by Joan Mellen, deserves a place in this period although it was published in 1978. It is still the only book of anthological character on the writings about Buñuel.

Because of an obvious reason (Luis Buñuel died in Mexico the 30th of July 1983) the interviews almost ceased to appear. Many of their functions were definitively replaced by the filmmaker's Mon dernier soupir . Still, as late as in 1986, an important interview "fleuve" was published by José de la Colina and Tomás Perez Turrent, who have been collecting statements since 1975 and organizing their publication since 1981, with the title Prohibido asomarse al interior  46. Although it does not close the period, it represents the organic end of the previous material that I found necessary to take into consideration for the development of this study.

Finally, I find it advisable to exorcise my own writing with the words of a man who, in fact, knew Luis Buñuel better than many others - his last confessor Jean-Claude Carrière:

" A great deal has been written about him - much too much. In an attempt to seize upon all the facets of a highly complicated man, he has been made out to be a tissue of contradictions. He is described simultaneously as an atheist and theist, revolutionary and bourgeois, an intellectual and a peasant, a recluse and an extrovert, fierce and sentimental, irrational and reasonable, a poet and a rationalist, as both                                                                        very French and very Spanish. He is all these things and more. He is indifferent and resigned to all the junk that is written about him, my own included. His sense of humour protects him."47


From «insufflatio» to «exsufflatio» the rite of writing prevails. Or, as Eco's - Adso's Salvatore probably would say:

-- "Penitenciagite"… Exegetes…"Et Amen. No?"






   The films reflect the moral structure of their author, a structure that was built upon some of the most predominant ideological currents of  occidental mankind. In this context, it is obviously necessary to take into account some of those influences that have marked Buñuel in the thematic and semantic fields.

In fact, and according to those influences, Buñuel's work could be perfectly subordinate, all of it, to any of the following epithets: "souvenirs entomologiques des humains"1; "the origin of instincts, or in search of the lost instinct"; "records of dream-subversion"; "accounts from the secret life of the humans"; "morality acts of heresy"; in short, all his work - like an authentic manual on the learning of the human condition.



  1. The entomological character.


Buñuel's interest in insects is well documented in all his films and if there were still any doubts about the systematised, and by no means casual or automatic method, that rules the repeated insertion of shots with insects in the films, such doubts would disappear immediately when reading his statements and those of his biographers on this matter.

According to Francisco Aranda and Manuel Alcalá, Luis Buñuel's confessor and teacher of natural sciences at the  Jesuit school "del Salvador" was the  entomologist Longino Navás, who would have had a great influence on his pupil2. Buñuel attended that school for seven years as a semi-intern until the age of fifteen3, and,  although he is a good example of the rule: the best guarantee to not become a Catholic is to attend a Catholic school -  he himself says "je suis athée, grâce à ∂ieu"4 - he retained, meanwhile, good memories from that time, as a matter of fact he retained good memories even from his military life5, and one can not disparage the necessarily great influence that the teacher-confessor and first systematising-supervisor of his entomological curiosity must have had on the mental  (and moral) development that would mark the future filmmaker, who, by that time, still found some refuge in the Catholic dogmas.

The act of leaving the Jesuits for the official school marks his rejection of their dogmas, and his new readings, especially Marx and Darwin6, will bring him closer to what I will call his entomological vision of the humans. He is entering the field of human entomology, a field that will provide him with different angles of vision and accurate methodological instruments for the (re)search of the instincts -  instruments that, in many cases, he already knew from his pure entomological work at the Museum of Natural History in Madrid. He says:

                             "J'y ai travallé pendant un an, avec un très vif intérêt, sous la direction du grand Ignacio Bolivar, à cette époque-là le plus fameux orthoptériste du monde. Aujourd'hui encore je suis capable de reconnaître au premier coup d'oeil de nombreux insectes, et de donner leurs noms latins."7

         To work in the Museum was to Buñuel  a conscious act that had its origin in the determination to find his own way8 in conflict, as a matter of fact, with his father's will, who rather wished to see him become agricultural engineer9. For one year, he developed a very close relationship to the systematized world of the insects. Meanwhile, some disturbances in his love for pure entomology would soon be noticed, that would bring him to an important conclusion:

                             "  'I worked with interest for over a year, although I soon arrived at the conclusion that I was more interested in the life or literature of insects than in his [sic ] anatomy, physiology and classification. 'During that time I formed a close friendship, in Students' Residence, with a group of young artists who were to influence me strongly in finding my bent. Some of them have become famous, such as the poet, Federico García Lorca, the painter, Salvador Dalí, Moreno Villa, poet and critic, etc. I began to collaborate in the vanguard of literary                                                          publications, publishing some poems and preferring to chat with my friends in the café rather than to sit at the table with the microscope at the Museum of Natural History."10

        In short, a transference from a pure entomological curiosity to an entomological curiosity about humans, their myths, their instincts, their fables, i.e. their reality. Or as Buñuel confessed later to André Bazin apropos the example of EL:

                             "Le héros de EL  est un type qui m'intéresse comme un scarabé ou un anophile… je me suis toujours passioné pour les insectes… j'ai un côté entomologiste. L'examen de la réalité m'intéresse beaucoup."11

       It is this interest in the man-real-insect that implies and justifies the entomological character of Buñuel's work, rendering  it an estranging effect,  rather different, in form, from that of Brecht, but very similar to it in its pedagogical function: we learn to see ourselves (our natural instincts and acquired prejudices) from  the outside, with all the clinical beauty and ugliness that the method implies.

The epithet "souvenirs entomologiques des humains", homage to the great French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre could, indeed, include this facet of Buñuel's work, but not without the heretical questioning of his God12. Fabre, who advocated the family instinct - to build a home and to take care of the family - as the highest expression from the range of the animal instincts13, saw himself questioned by his own method which Buñuel used to expose (for example in L'AGE D'OR) the moral aberrances that are inherent to the bourgeois - thus human - concept of family. "The wonders of instinct among the humans", to paraphrase the title of Fabre's selected texts14, are, for the filmmaker, beyond the systematized exposition of the instincts in their range. He searches their "Origin", now with the help of another deity, though from the same branch.


  1. The instinctive character of remembering.          


       Buñuel reveals to us, at the beginning of his autobiography Mon dernier soupir, his fears and convictions about the importance of memory in the life of the human specimen:

                             "Notre mémoire est notre cohérence, notre raison, notre action, notre      sentiment. Sans elle, nous ne sommes rien."15

The existence of a memory as a factor of coherence is a fundamental aspect in the work of Luis Buñuel. Not as a source of cognitive and voluntary coherence ruled by the individual, in an attempt to put some order in his chaos, but as a source of instinctive coherence that rules the individual and renders him, even in the moments (and despite of them - because of them) of the most chaotic absurdity, a reason to be. This is the memory of the original instinct, which is neither static nor immutable as its contrary - the biblical cousin, but neither does it necessarily evolve with the same progression of rational knowledge. Nevertheless, its evolution has, probably,  a lot in common with the evolution of the species, or as Darwin wrote:

                             " As modifications of corporeal structure arise from, and are increased by, use or habit, and are diminished or lost by disuse, so I do not doubt it has been with instincts."16

Buñuel has been dissecting in his films (a magnificent act of applied sublimation, since he declares to have "… horreur de la vivisection."17) the successive layers of "evolved" instincts, in repeated attempts to approach the original one, or its memory.

The epithet "the origin of instincts", homage to Charles Darwin, could conglomerate all those attempts into an united and coherent body, but not without leaving an opening to the manifestation of another heresy. The lack of a sharp boarder line between reality and fiction, or facts and their description (and this applies to all knowledge), makes us unfit to identify the all-mighty-original-instinct with one of those fields. So, "in search of the lost instinct" would be, perhaps, a more adequate epithet for this facet, since the factual evolution of the instincts seems to be inseparable from the narration of their remembering. Buñuel reminds us humans (at least those of us who share the Aristotelian heritage) that we have a tendency, in our anxiety of systematization, to always grasp some form of "in extremis" coherence. Consequently, we could find a place for the coherent heretic filmmaker within this mother-coherence of our civilization, where the memory of heresy would rescue us from the error of any last judgment. But we may as well incline to an apparently incoherent form of heresy, i. e., a metaheresy, non-referent to any other dogma than itself. Like a kind of private joke from which not even Darwin escapes unscathed.  



  1. The memorable character of the records.                         


To record the torrent of "souvenirs" is to write/film according to the flowing memory. The Buñuelian "souvenirs" embody, in their great majority, the surrealist dogma of "Déjà vu". Some of them are consciously recalled,  therefore heretical, and get developed in the fluid of "real" memory. Others develope themselves during the recording process, automatic writing or not, and emanate from the fluid of "fictive memory". These are the dogmatic "souvenirs" and they are easily recognized as postulates of our cultural codes, e. g., an actress to represent a woman, an actor to represent a man, a snake to represent danger, etc…


In this work I am more interested in the heretical "souvenirs", since they can show us some aspects of the  peculiar working method used by the filmmaker, but both heretical and dogmatic "souvenirs" have similar functions in the narrative process. They transport us to the no man's land between reality and fiction, where chaos rules among myths and instincts, giving birth to our dreams, visions and fables. Theoretically, it would be of great value to establish a structural connection between two contradictory pairs of different pedagogic value: {heresy - instinct} against {dogma -      - myth}, developing a range of moral patterns of narrativity. Such a contradiction is often easy to find in many artistic works and its resolution originates different styles and aesthetic approaches. But as we saw before, it is not easy to find a traditional dialectical structure in the work of Buñuel, and if we were to try, we would notice soon that it was an artificial construction with minimal importance to our quotidian memory facing his "souvenirs". This lack of structural connections between the similar functions of the memory (real and fictive) on one hand and their different pedagogic value on the other, seem to lead us, when in the presence of the Buñuelian "souvenirs",  into another dimension of the memory which we could call the ancestral memory - a sanctuary that could shed some light in our quotidian chaos if we only could remember it; since we can't, we are condemned to the Sisyphean learning (and consequent forgetting18) of our "Déjà vu"'s stream, where real and fictive "souvenirs" blend into a personal melting pot. Buñuel explains:

                             "La mémoire est perpétuellement envahi par l'imagination et la rêverie, et comme il existe une tentation de croire à la réalité de l'imaginaire, nous finissons par faire de notre mensonge une vérité. Ce qui d'ailleurs ne présente qu'une importance relative, puisqu'ils sont aussi vécus, aussi personels l'un que l'autre."19

Let us now examine some examples of heretical "souvenirs" that are, I think, good illustrations of the filmmaker's working method and which can be resumed in the chain:  remembering-recording-remembering.

In the film EL there is a scene in which the jealous husband, the vehement Catholic Francisco Galvan de Montemayor (the Mexican actor Arturo de Córdova), believes that he and his wife Gloria (Delia Garcés)  are being watched by a former acquaintance of Gloria's, Ricardo (Rafael Blanquells) who occupies an adjacent hotel room. Francisco takes a hatpin and, with not too much inhibition, sticks it firmly and quickly through the keyhole in the certainty of making his rival blind.

Remembering this scene, Buñuel tells us the following episode as a part of his sexual initiation adventures in the bosom  of the Catholic society:

                             "A Saint-Sébastien, lorsque j'atteignis treize or catorze ans, les cabines de bains nous offraient un autre moyen de nous renseigner. Une cloison partageait en deux ces cabines. Il était facile de s'introduire dans l'un des compartiments et, par un trou pratiqué dans la cloison, d'observer les dames qui se désabillaient de l'autre côté.

 Cependant, à cette époque-là, la mode piqua de longues épingles dans les chapeaux féminins, et les dames, se sachant observés, introduisaient ces épingles dans les trous, ne croignant pas de percer l'oeil curieux (je me suis souvenu de ce détail, plus tard, dans El)."20

Buñuel creates a literary work remembering a "real" scene (it exists  in shades of black and white, registered in the celluloid frames) that may have had its origin in a "real souvenir" of his puberty years. The conditions for developing a "Déjà vu" effect are optimal, but there is nothing here that can be called automatic. The conscious recalling-manipulation of "souvenirs" is a constant in the recording process,and we can indeed identify it as a heretical treatment of the surrealistic dogmas.

Another example with the same structure confirms that we are in the presence of an important aspect of Buñuel's working method, perhaps the most important one: to record the memory of memories, which implies to let it (the memory) bring to light what it wants to, because of any obvious or transcendental (surrealistic) reason, and to let stay in the darkness what it also wants to and because of the same reason. It is a scene from the film EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR in which a woman, the singer Silvia (Rosa Durgel), is doing her hair in front of a wall mirror in a very mechanical, abandoned and slow way, combing the same section of hair over and over again, leaving all the rest in untouched disarray. The young Francisco [the same Christian name as the husband in EL (Xavier Loya)] is watching her and turns away in disgust, bending over his older sister Juana (Ofelia Guilmain) and saying that he can't stand it any longer. Juana, annoyed by her brother's nervous state, gets up, goes over to Silvia by the mirror and grabs her arm asking her, severely, why she doesn't comb her hair properly. Juana snatches the comb and draws it roughly through the all of Silvia's hair, combing it out and flattening the curls. Then, Francisco joins them, grabs the comb, breaks it and throws the pieces to the floor in a rage.

Again Buñuel's memory brings back this scene into his literary "soupir" apropos some "souvenirs" from his first time at the Students' Residence in Madrid:

                             "Lorsque je revins à Madrid, au mois de mars, devant l'absence de chambres libres à la Résidence, j'acceptai l'offre de Juan Centeno, frére de mon bon ami Augusto Centeno, d'habiter avec lui. Nous installâmes un lit supplémentaire dans sa chambre. J'y suis resté un mois. Etudiant en médecine, Juan Centeno partait de bonne heure le matin. Avant de partir, il se peignait longuemnet devant sa glace, mais en s'arrêtant au sommet de son crâne, laissant en désordre et à l'abandon les cheveux qu'il ne voyait pas, derrière sa tête. Pour ce geste absurde, répété chaque jour, après deux ou trois semaines, j'en suis venu à le haïr,                                                                                             malgré la reconnaissance que je lui devais. Haine inexplicable, issue d'un détour obscur de l'inconscient, que rapelle une courte scène de l'Ange exterminateur".21

It would be possible to enunciate several similar examples, all showing the same pattern of memorable acts apropos "real souvenirs",  taken from reality according to Buñuel, or from the reminiscent fluid of dreams, which is even better adapted to the Buñuelian beliefs as far as the purpose of films is concerned: the collective sleep, eventually the collective dream. He says:

                             "Je crois que le cinéma exerce sur les spectateurs un certain pouvoir      hypnotique. Il suffit de regarder les gens qui sortent d'une salle de cinéma, toujours en silence, la tête basse et l'air lointain. Le public du thêatre, de la corrida et le public sportif montrent beaucoup plus d'énergie et d'animation. L'hypnose cinématographique, légère et inconsciente, est due sans doute à l'obscurité de la salle, mais aussi aux changements de plans, de lumiéres et aux mouvements de la caméra, qui affaiblissent l'intelligence critique du spectateur et exercent sur lui une sorte de fascination et de viol."23

It is therefore possible, in the beliefs of Buñuel - and he is certainly not alone in that act of profession - to interfere with the subconsciousness of the spectators through an adequate manipulation of the technical devices that belong to the construction and to the projection of the film. Buñuel also believes that the purpose of the great majority of the films is to provide well-ordered explanations about almost everything that surrounds us. Such an explanatory interference in each person's mind is nothing more and nothing less than brainwashing. But then, there is the eventuality of the subversive cinema, the poem films in their pedagogical function, inserting the collective dream within the collective sleep. It becomes obvious then, to any good heretic who feels proud of his heresy, that there is one only thing to do: to subvert the brainwashing process with the same means within the message, the media and the message-media.  He says:

                             "Cet amour fou du rêve, du plaisir de rêver, totalement dépouillé de toute tentative d'explication, est un des goûts profonds qui m'ont rapproché du surréalisme.""Plus tard, j'ai introduit des rêves dans mes films, en essayant d'éviter l'aspect rationnel et explicatif qu'ils ont la plupart du temps."23

The poem film is, indeed, a heresy against the cinematographic dogmas and Buñuel must, in fact, be considered as a good heretic.

I have been speaking, until now, most about «methodological» heresies, since the thematic heresies are almost all devoted to the Christian doctrine. Nevertheless, we can find other themes, some of them quite close to the Buñuelian personality, that also have been victims of the heretical fury of the filmmaker.


  1. The secret life of the humans.                                        

 To classify the works of Luis Buñuel as "accounts from the secret life of the humans" is to kill three birds, at least, with one stone.

The first one embodies the impossibility of erasing the period of ideological agreement between Buñuel and Dali. This period was a fertile ground for the flourishing of a fundamental surrealistic attitude: the aesthetics of scandal. This attitude gave birth to the first film directed by Buñuel after a script by himself and Dali, which is an authentic mark in the history of cinema. UN CHIEN ANDALOU was the first "really" surrealist film. Buñuel tell us about that time:

                             "Nous avons été pendant longtemps des amis intimes et notre collaboration sur le scénario Un chien andalou  me laisse le souvenir merveilleux d'une harmonie totale de goûts."24

The second bird does not sail on the wings of another homage-heresy cycle, but those of repulsion - repulsion for the catalysing influence of Gala, who would quickly transform Salvador Dali into "Avida Dollars"25. The painter would soon be excluded from the surrealist group since he had become "un misérable marchant", to use the words of André Breton26. It is also  Dali (a Judas for the Anti-Christ) who would denounce Buñuel to the American society as an anticlerical Communist sympathizer in his book The Secret Life of Salvador Dali 27.

The third bird again shows those colours of homage-heresy and embodies our most secret wishes, habits and perversions. It is the homage to Sade in "quanta" - 120? - tales of fetishistic adjuration. The aberrational catharsis is given to us with a guarantee of anonymity, safely in the darkness of the auditorium where the physical and psychic isolation from our normal-human-habitat provokes a ferocious unchaining of all our instincts, with the one and only complicity of the secret of the Gods (those of the screen and the others), and without implying any other less pleasant consequences to our fellow mortals. Nevertheless, it is not a game that can be played in total freedom from danger. Not so much because of the themes, but because of the methods. We have already seen how Buñuel warned us about the purpose of the films. In fact he has been warning us long before his last "soupir", just as he did in one of his few "traditional-pedagogical" works - the already mentioned lecture Cinema, Instrument of Poetry , recorded as a magnetic tape because of his fear of being regarded as an exhibitionist in front of the listeners, first published by the Mexican academic magazine  Cineforum 28  and here in the translation of David Robinson:

                             "Because it acts in a direct manner upon the spectator in presenting to him concrete people and objects, because it isolates him by virtue of the silence and darkness from what might be called his ‘psychic habitat’, the cinema is capable of putting him into a state of ecstasy more effectively than any other mode of human expression. But more effectively than any other, it is capable of brutalizing him. And unhappily the great part of the present-day cinema production seems to have no other mission: the screens rejoice in the moral and intellectual                         emptiness in which the cinema prospers; in effect it limits itself  to imitating the novel or the theatre with the difference that its means are less rich to express psychology: it repeats to satiety the same stories which the nineteenth century was already tired of telling and which still continue in contemporary fiction."29

This warning about the multifaceted nature of the cinema, a light which is capable of "blowing up the universe" but for the moment still "carefully drugged and imprisoned"30, was already made in 1958 and its methodological observations constitute the grounds (though "its means are less rich to express psychology"- as Buñuel thought by that time) that permitted him, a decade later, to vociferate in celluloide frames the heresy of heresies, in which the God-Marquis is placed at the same level (sequence) of any theologian "maitre d'hotel".  In the film LA VOIE LACTÉE -  - the film of thematic heresies par excellence -, Buñuel developes a sequence opposing the shots of the head waiter Richard (Julien Bertheau) who preaches his homemade theology to the subordinate waiters, to the shots of the Marquis de Sade (Michel Piccoli) who insults, through the chained Thérèse (Christinne Simon), the Divine Ghost.

It is like a circle that is coming to an end where nothing is sacred, not even secret, or as the Duke of Blangis said:"…nul lien n'est sacré aux yeux de gens tels que nous…"31.  And yet,  maybe it is not exactly as it seems. As adjacent entities to the cycle of chronicles and accounts there are three straight lines, the oneiric character, the character of morality, and the pedagogical character.

We have already become acquainted with the oneiric character, and the pedagogic aspects have been and will be a constant reference point. Let us now deal with the character of morality, which impregnates so much the Buñuelian acts of heresy.


  1. The pedagogical character of morality.                           

Can we really say that the films of Luis Buñuel are moralities belonging to the same dramatic genre as those religious plays from the Middle Ages? Let us try to find an answer with the help of a simple definition of morality:

                   "a late medieval form of drama which aimed at instruction and moral teaching. Its characters are abstractions of vice and virtue, and the only trace of humour is provided by the Devil and the Old vice, or buffoon."32

  In my opinion, we can. Although they are not identical in all details, they have the same function. And, as with folk tales, even here we can find some structural affinities.

The pedagogical aim is present in all the films, as a result of their character of open works, and it assumes, in fact, some aspects of moral education that develope within the process of confrontation between the expectations and the answers (or their lack) that strikes the spectator. This process includes the manipulation of thematic and semantic items and it is a necessary condition for the achievment of the pedagogical aim. We can say that the poetics of the open work constitute the pedagogical guarantee for such an achievment.

In the thematic field, Buñuel uses the dogmas as equivalents of moral principles, which, once integrated in the epistemological metaphors, propose to the spectator the justification of a certain sociomoral order in contradiction with the chaotic order of the instinctive world. The metaphors teach us that the dominant moral concepts, connected with a certain theme, assume a double character (or at least an ambiguous one) that is perfectly justified and accepted in the narrative, just as the medieval moralities accepted the vicious traits of a character in order to justify the arousal of virtuous acts. The Christian sins of luxury in LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE, adultery in BELLE DE J'OUR, murder in LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ, etc…, are proposed as integral parts of epistemological metaphors that justify different (accepted) aspects of a given sociomoral order.

In the semantic field, the process of confrontation assumes, essentially, two different forms of subordination to the pedagogical aims of the thematic field. One is coincident with the expectations of a dominant way of reading, rendering to a contemporary spectator a flow of uncontroversial cinematographic equivalents, offering him the possibility of an obvious reading, leaving him at ease to legitimize the double moral of the theme - for example, the assumption of murder as an obvious last rescue alternative in LA MORT DANS CE JARDIN. The other form of subordination inverts the terms of the contradiction content-form, i. e., it precludes a suitable reading of the narrative items in order to call into question the moral apology of the theme - for example, the  apparent dramaturgic arbitrariness in the casting, questioning the bourgeois legitimacy of desire in CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR, is achieved with the utilization of different equivalents that, at a first glance, may not be immediatly identified as obviously different. We can verify in both cases a subordination to the pedagogical aims, either by coincidence or by divergence, which, in confrontation with the prejudices (moral and reading prejudices) of the spectator, may provide a change of concepts (moral, cultural, ideological, cinematographic, etc…) as an educational result.

 The characters of the films are, indeed, abstractions of vice and virtue, often with both these characteristics represented by the same character. Such characteristics may be conjecturally assumed as in the case of Séverine versus Belle de Jour (Catherine Deneuve) in BELLE DE JOUR, or conjecturally refused as in the case of the Idealist Social Protector versus the Lover (Gaston Modot) in L'AGE D'OR. The gallery of personages is not directly identifiable, taking each film per se, with the traditional family of personages in the late medieval moralities. As we have already seen, through the reading of Rebolledo, Buñuel fills his metaphors with characters that are more connected with the picaresque tradition than with anything else. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify, in the globality of the work, characters carrying functions that are coincident with those of the moralities. If we were to take the play Everyman  as a term of comparison, we would see that it is possible to identify the Messenger with the Gerillas/Bandits of L'AGE D'OR, God with several manifestations of Deus ex machina in LA VOIE LACTÉE, Death with the Host - Nobile (Enrique Rambal) in EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR, etc…, and we could carry on until the last of the seventeen personages was identified, including Everyman, who is, more or less, present in all characters of the films, rendering to each one a human dimension of vice and virtue that Buñuel depicts with his entomological cinematographic methodology. But we can even notice another great similarity (perhaps greater) with the personages of the Iberian moralities, for example, with the morality acts of Gil Vicente and especially with his ACT OF THE SOUL from 150833, where we meet the Soul, an Angel, the Church, the Doctors of the Church and two Devils. These personages are present in all the religious themes directed by Buñuel. The constellation Devils - Church is especially interesting because of its aptness as a frame for the Buñuelian humour. 

The traces of humour are many and variable, but I think that we can generally identify them with the part of the Devil. Not the strictly religious Devil, but the instinctive one - the picaro, the Devil in our souls of human-insects on our tragicomical way to some unachievable place of our memory.

Finally, it is important that the moral teaching that is present in all the films not be identified with a traditional moralism, which is much more the mark of Hitchcock and Ford, a moralism that distinguishes between good and bad as a result of some almighty universal ethics and which may be confused with Buñuel's humourous journeys of vice , virtue and heresy. Probably, that was what happened to Virginia Higginbotham when she wrote about the filmmaker as a moralist, finishing with the following hypothesis:

                             "It may be that, for the first time, one of the great moralists of the century happens to be a filmmaker."34

On the contrary Buñuel's moralism should be considered as an attempt to search the instinctive origin of good and evil, as a heretical truth, against the cultural dogmas that, as Nietzsche said, are generally accepted as the grounds for educating the human beast (insect) into a tamed and civilized domestic animal35.

So, we are indeed in the presence of "instruction and moral teaching", not of dogmatic but of heretical character; therefore I have chosen the epithet "morality acts of heresy".

But now, a second question arrives. What kind of heresy? Actually, we have already touched the answer several times: total heresy. Heresy against the religious dogmas, the social and psychological dogmas, the cinematographic  and even the surrealistic dogmas as we saw in the case of "Déjà vu", though we must admit that if there was any doctrine which remained more or less holy to the filmmaker, then it was surrealism - the sine qua non condition of his moralism, or as Buñuel himself confessed to André Bazin:

                             "C'est le surréalisme qui m'a révélé que, dans la vie, il y a un sens moral que l'homme ne peut pas se dispenser de prendre. Par lui j'ai découvert pour la première fois que l'homme n'était pas libre. Je croyais à la liberté totale de l'homme mais j'ai vu dans le surréalisme                                                                                    une discipline à suivre."36

  And thirty years after, in his last confession:

                             "Ce qui m'est resté du surréalisme, c'est aussi la découverte en moi d'un conflit très dur entre les principes de toute morale acquise et ma moralle personelle, née de mon instinct et de mon expérience active. Jusqu'à mon entrée dans le groupe, je n'avais jamais imaginé qu'un tel conflit pourrai me frapper. Et je crois ce conflit indispensable à toute vie."37

This can be read as a moral statement which implies a heretical approach to its own principles.

Let us see, then, what are the pedagogical implications of total heresy.


  1. The pedagogical character of heresy.                              

 In terms of educational philosophy the pedagogical value of heresy is of a metaphysical character and it goes back to Plato's cave where the distinction between illusion and reality was not so obvious. Then it expands through constant questions about the nature of the human condition, the essence of beauty, the nature of evil, the primacy of life over death, the first cause of the universe, showing concern about concepts of justice, punishment, equity, intelligence, indoctrination and education itself. It becomes a meta-pedagogy. Buñuel could then be called, (one more label?), a metaphysical pedagog, who, as a prisoner of the Platonic cave-republic and as an inquisitor of the Aristotelian/Christian universal order, shows us the dogmas, in their peculiar reality, as if he accepted them, but simultaneously, with reptilian subtlety, changing or supressing a detail, thus subverting the entire result, liberating the instincts and the doubts of all kinds. But he is also a rational illusionist (human-entomologist?), who makes us surrender to that liberation by means of illusory noncausality. In fact, if we were to search for another name to connect with the pedagogical value of the Buñuelian work, we would be obliged to jump in time and ideas in order to find the name of Paulo Freire, who conceived education as having a critical and therefore liberating function. Although Buñuel confessed himself not interested in the didactic cinema (see p. 24), the truth is that his films as heretical (inquiring and liberating) metaphors assume a didactic function in the totality of their epistemological environment: the metaphysical, the individual and the sociohistorical. And, as Drouzy showed in his chapter Kætteren 38, what Buñuel really achieved was to become a heretic within all those fields, not only as a surrealist, nor as a marxist, nor as an atheist heretic per se, but mainly and above all, as a total heretic within his history, culture and craft.

To find some wider clarification of the term total heresy, we should also search, as we did for morality, for its meaning in the Middle Ages, since the medieval period was a great time for religion and therefore for heresy too.

Walter Wakefield and Austin Evans tell us in the introduction to the collected Heresies of the High Middle Ages  that

                             "Heresy was treason to God, the worst of offenses against Christian society, a challenge to every duly constituted authority. It was a deadly contamination, making necessary constant vigilance against infection,…".39

And offering a theological definition:

                             "Theologically, heresy was defined in the Middle Ages as doctrinal error held stubbornly in defiance of authority."40

A great part of these judgments are applicable to the works of Buñuel.

Theologically, they are "the worst offenses against Christian society", i. e., against that cluster of dogmas that have marked him so much in his childhood-adolescence and which mark, perhaps more than anything else, all our western values.

From a social point of view, his films are really "a challenge to every duly constituted authority", following that anarchistic heritage that so marked the Spain of his younger years, in a constant crusade, from L'AGE D'OR/LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DE CHAMBRE versus Chiappe/fascism, through VIRIDIANA versus Franco and to LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE versus French militarism, international terrorism and universal bourgeois hypocrisy.

In the cinematographic field the films are errors (of a more dadaistic than surrealistic character) "held stubbornly in defiance of authority", "deadly contamination, making necessary constant vigilance" against the infected cinematographic dogmas - the  master artisan controlling the powerful secrets of his art craft, punching holes in the subconsciousness of the art, perverting the genres, the types and the fabulas with their own dogmas. It is the dogma as transvestite heresy - or, total heresy.

The multifaceted nature of the cinema requires multifaceted forms of heresy, especially if the aim is to teach the spectator about the poetics of liberation. This is what Buñuel has been doing since 1929 with his morality acts of heresy  -  the films.




The films have an influence upon the individual's relationship with his epistemological environment, similar to that of folk tales, and grounded upon the repetition of themes, functions and characters as units of signification, grounded, too, upon the suversion of the very same themes, functions and characters.

I will not describe the plots since they are, by this time, well known stories (at least the most of them) for the common film scholar through screening, scripts and anthological film analysis1. I will focus my attention mainly on the four paradigmatic units of signification in a film which, besides the themes, the functions and the characters, also include the titles.

The title is a unit of immediate signification while the themes, the characteres in transfiguration with the personae behind the credits and the functions are units of inference that can be deduced from the interpretation of the work, which begins exactly with the reading of the titles and the credits.

The title, which, according to the notion of open work, is an absolutely determinant factor in the interpretation process, can close a work completely. Alas, this is one of the plagues that usually drab the translation of the films into another language than the original.                   I remember, for example, the Swedish translation of the title of Claude Chabrol's VIOLETTE NOZIÉRE (78) in which the entire plot factors in the psychological probability of parricide committed, or not, by the girl Violette. The title was translated as GIFTMÖRDERSKAN (the poisoner), which, in fact, closes a priorily any possibility of other readings 2.

We cannot say that the films of L. Buñuel have been great victims of that plague; however, here I will try  to use only the original titles.

The second significant unit is initiated by the credits. They connect the spectator, in a process of immediate signification, with a limited and identifiable part of the film culture, pushing him, eventually, into the recognition of a genre because of the casting, the director, the producer, etc… This unit is especially important in the films that we are going to analyse because of Buñuel's methodological casting, choosing the actors as types that, in the end of his work, were easily connected with Buñuelian characteres, thus turning the credits into factors of inferent signification. This is the reason why I prefer to present the names of the actors inside a parenthesis, directly connected with the respective personages, instead of repeating once more that filmographic exercise, isolated from the organic structure of the study, but which has become a common device to end a great number of Buñuelian studies. I think that my method  may function as a source of information in direct connection with the study of the most important characters and their respective equivalents of transfiguration, serving as an instrument of evaluation and comparison instead of being just another, usually obligatory, filmography of aimless character3.

The third unit is formed by the group of themes. They are often difficult to enunciate because they are difficult to recognize, which is a typical characteristic of any open work. But we can classify them in five main groups touching the religious, the socio- psychological and the narrative fields in an attempt to analyse some of them.

The fourth unit is formed by the group of functions assumed by the characters within the themes. They are also difficult to define, because of the same reason, and because their number varies with the themes. Here, I will be especially interested in those that embody the requisites of the morality, abstractions of vice and virtue, and in their  heretical relationship with the themes. It is also important to see which functions,  present in the structure of the folk tales, assume a consistent character of absence in the Buñuelian films. Concerning this last aspect, the article written by Annie Goldmann, Les Déserts de la Foi 4, about the absence of credible functions in the themes of SIMON DEL DESIERTO and LA VOIE LACTÉE, comparing Buñuel with Pasolini and Godard, is of some interest. It would be translated into English under the title Structures of Absence in the Films of Godard, Buñuel and Pasolini 5.

It is a usual practice in Buñuelian studies to divide the films according to specific production periods which coincide more or less with the periods that figure in my chapter on previous writing and research. I will not do the same, since I find the films as parts of such a cohesive structure in spite of their incredibly different conditions of production. Consequently the examples that I point out are taken indiscriminately from all the films (with a couple of exceptions for the supervised films) in an attempt to render the idea of their pedagogical cohesion.


1.      The titles.    


  UN CHIEN ANDALOU is definitively not one of those closing titles. It not only keeps the narrative structure open, but, in fact, contributes a lot to its openness. I remember several times hearing the same question from many film students at the end of the screen sessions with this film in the Department of Comparative Literature at Lund's University:

--"Was there any dog in the film?"

There is, indeed, a dog running along the film. It is the virtual image of the corpus constituted by the the bourgeois narrative dogmas, reflecting all the complexes, anxieties, frustations and sublimations that represent all our artistic heritage.

This is the title that caused most discussions and explanations, even for Buñuel, who, soon after release, made a large number of statements to deflect any possibility of symbolic interpretation and to underline the strict literal sense of the title. Despite those efforts, the andalusian poet - one of Buñuel's closest friends from student days - Federico Garcia Lorca had no great difficulties identifying the title with his own personality, taking it as a personal injury from Buñuel, who denied it. In fact, the film was supposed to have another title from the very beginning: "Prohibido asomarse al interior"6, a subtle adaptation of the warning text that exists in almost every train, and that in Spanish is written "prohibido asomarse al exterior". Then, another title was discussed: "El marista en la ballesta"7. The title UN CHIEN ANDALOU was originally the name of a collection of poems written by Buñuel in 1927. Apparently, there was not any direct connection either with the content of the film or with any other personality or exterior matter. But only apparently. Because like  Sanchez Vidal noted in his book about Buñuel's cinematographic work8, that collection of poems was essentially a settlement with the lyrical tradition that Lorca represented.

This chessgame of titles and interpretations may be considered as a rather typical (heretical) manipulation of the surrealistic notion of "Déjà vu", knowing as Buñuel did that the different sociocultural charges of the individuals will make them recognize symbols in the signs that carry no apparent reason to be recognized as such. But the observation made by Sanchez Vidal reminds us of another perspective, that of anarchic irreverence, which already characterized the filmmaker of those days. Such signs of irreverence are strongly present in the interruption that Buñuel caused in the reading of Don Perlimplim y Belisa en su jardin  by its author - Lorca himself.

                             " Lorca commença sa lecture. J'ai déjà dit qu'il lisait merveilleusement. Pourtant, quelque chose me déplaisait dans l'histoire du vieillard et de la jeune fille qui, à la fin du premier acte, se retrouvent dans un lit à baldaquin, dont les rideaux se referment. A ce moment-là un gnome sort du trou du souffleur et s'adresse au public: «Eh bien, respectable public, voici donc que Don Perlimplim et Bélise…» Interrompant la lecture, je tape sur la table et je dis:  -- Ça suffit Federico. Ç'est une merde."9

This attitude of irreverent anarchism will completely impregnate all his work and it is one of the ingredients that deeply mark the Buñuelian narrativity, functioning as the heretical antipode to the surrealistic self discipline of the films. The title assumes here not only aspects of immediate signification, it also assumes a metanarrative function, opening in extremis, as we will see, the narrative themes of the film.

The expression UN CHIEN ANDALOU is identifiable enough (besides the references already noticed, it is possible to associate it with those hungry, dirty, mongrel dogs ravaging in the Iberian Peninsula as well as with those aristocratic hunting dogs that shine in the same space) to provoke a stream of interpretative tendencies, but also irreverent enough to erase them almost simultaneously.



The title L'AGE D'OR encloses a more narrow symbology than the former one, but it carries on the same line of surrealistic signification. Alas, the original script hade two other provisory titles and one of them was "The Andalusian Beast"10, which must have been rejected because of its rather obvious analogical characteristics to the earlier film, just in the same way as some original scenes were supressed or modified because of their exaggerated resemblance to other segments of UN CHIEN ANDALOU, for example, the priest (Xaume Miratvilles - the same actor that plays one of the priests pulling the piano in UN CHIEN ANDALOU) playing violin in the orchestra when initially he should play the piano11.

L'AGE D'OR gives us the immediate meaning of a splendorous time that take us back, with the film, to that antrum of ancestral memory where we recognize some inaccessible items of desire and freedom of desire as expressions of unrepressed instincts. This notion of "Déjá vu" implies the idea of a past and its history, which means that the coming story must have a present tense as the time context of plot development. The film will show us that the title and its implicit notion of past constitute the only reminiscence of a lost paradise, while the consequent notion of present -  - the Imperial Rome cemented by the Majorcans as tenors and vehicles of the Judeo-Christian values - shows an omnipresent structure of repression against desire and instinct.

Thus, the other provisory title "Down with the Constitution"12 would give us the immediate notion of the entire ambit of signification, but it would also become a closing factor in the work, while L'AGE D'OR leaves an open door to the following plot, whetting our curiosity (our learning predisposition) as insect-spectators.



LAS HURDES - TIERRA SIN PAN is an equation where the first term stands for the name of the place and the second for one of its qualities.

There are good conditions to develope a logical corollary  of equality from the equational statement: we see LAS HURDES - TIERRA SIN PAN but we read LAS HURDES = TIERRA SIN PAN, which would close much of the work, transforming it into another "realistic" documentary full of traditional and magisterial pedagogy. Nothing could be more wrong. The second term of the equation assumes, in fact, the aspect of a sub-quality, not so much as a complete socio-economic resolution of the equation as an ethnological account, as aseptically clinical as the purest and cleanest surrealistic picture.



CENTINELA ALERTA! is a title from 1936 when the beginning of the Spanish Civil War would easily provide a flow of patriotic militarism as the obvious context for the plot. Wrong again. The film is a farce-like comedy without any higher ideals, betraying quite efficiently the immediate meaning of the title. I take this example from the group of films that are generally not recognized as made by Buñuel to show how it is possible to find the heretical touch even in those cases of apparent orphanage.




LOS OLVIDADOS is the title of the Buñuelian film that has been more connected with realism and even with neo-realism13; Buñuel himself stated that the starting point for LOS OLVIDADOS was SCIUSIÀ (46) by Vittorio De Sica14. The connotative meanings of the adjective in the title lead us to such a connection. But what about the denotative meaning? If we ask who they are, those who fall into oblivion, the answer is wide open. To Bazin they were the representatives of a moral optimism:

                             "…une bonté primitive de l'homme, un paradis de l'enfance, dévasté avant terme par la société pervertie des adultes…"                                

 but also representatives of a social optimism

                             "…puisqu'il suppose que la société peut réparer sont mal en faisant de la maison de rééducation un microcosme social fondé sur la confiance, l'ordre et la fraternité…"15.

  Meanwhile for Virginia Higginbotham the "outcasts or forgotten ones" are a group of juvenile delinquents who carry in some way the heritage of the inhabitants of Las Hurdes, simultaneously sharing and rejecting the neo-realistic principles16.

This film was also supposed (like most films of all times and places) to have another title in the pre-production phase. It would be "La manzana podrida"17. Again I think that it would be a more closing title, pointing directly at the rotten personage or the rotten society, while LOS OLVIDADOS involve all the characters and groups within the film and even those outside the film but whose presence we feel in the off-screen space, like the father of Ojitos (Mario Ramírez) and those who kept him from appearing.




LA FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO denominates a film rejected by Buñuel in several statements and opportunities. The title denounces the revolutionary context of the film, and , yet, it assumes pretty well those characteristics of the surrealistic approach to any theme: the clinical scepticism of epic involvment, or, as Michel Leiris defined in his surrealistic glossary from 1925 = "FIN DE L'ERE CHRÉTIENNE"18:

                             "FIEVRE - La sève monte, je me défie de ses lèvres."19

The pedagogical value of heresy in the film is connected with the epic distancing of the narrative development from the sappy undertone of the title. Maybe this was a result of Buñuel's and Gérard Philipe's disengagement in the film:

                             "Le pire de mes films français est «La Fièvre monte à El Pao»; pendant le tournage, Gérard Philipe et moi nous nous demandions pourquoi nous faisions un «truc» pareil. Mystère, ni lui ni moi ne savions  pourquoi."20

 Whatever the causes were, the Brechtian epic pedagogy is the result, although assuming a face of revolutionary disengagement, or revolutionary heresy, e. g., the different conflicts, social, emotional, etc…, rise in temperature but their dramatic resolution does not raise any new order or noticeable qualitative change.




 Finally, LA VOIE LACTÉE, also known as "la route de St. Jacques", is a galaxy of signification. First comes the  denotative meaning of road and the picaresque journey is connoted, then the connotations of pilgrimage take over. Everything is possible with such a title, and everything within the title remains possible after the film. This is, perhaps, the best example of a large group of titles that denote and connote the realm of the Buñuelian metaphors: the sacrifice of a proposition within its heretical subversion. The other titles of this group are LA MORT EN CE JARDIN; EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR; LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DE CHAMBRE; BELLE DE JOUR and LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ. Another title with these characteristics is "Ilegible, Hijo de Flauta", but With regard to the cinematographic context it is an anti-title, since the project was never produced.

In terms of interpretation what happens with the immediate signification of the titles is that it starts a process which invites the readers/spectators to identify the equivalence between two different semiotic systems, which are, using Pasolini's nomenclature21, formed by the "lin-signs" for the printed words of the titles and the "im-signs" for the images on the celluloid and on the screen. This means that we are now able to advance from a stage of immediate recognition of signs to a stage where some of those signs - the credits - in conjunction with the meanings of the titles may implement a process of inference in order to identify some of the characters who populate the films.



2.      The characters.     


There are three main groups of characters to be observed in connection with three different dramaturgical strategies: those that are bound up in the world of morality, those that carry the picaresque mental and physical stigmas and those that emanate from a pataphysical tradition.

It is convenient to establish some terminological clarifications  before we try to find those characters. Thus, it is important to distinguish the characters from the personages, and these in turn from the actors. A character is a dramatis personae and it may be coincident with a certain personage or with a symbiosis of different personages, while each personage is transfigured through the "im-signs" of an actor.


The morality bounds.  


  There is in the cinema a mixture of voyeurism and surveillance which assumes aspects of complicity between the filmmaker and the spectator. Those characteristics give wings to the cinematic Guardian Angel - the one who watches the metaphors - that same old companion of any filmmaker - the camera. It is not the aim of this work to question his guidance, but to search for the characters that he watches.

Searching for the characters of morality in the Buñuelian films is to search for the Soul of Everyman, which encloses Good Deeds, Five Wits, Beauty, Strength, Knowledge, Discretion and Goods. Naturally, and as I have already pointed out, these traits are present, at least to some extent, in all the personages of the films. But there are some of them who distinguish themselves for their peculiar moral structure. The most important are Padre Lizardi (Michel Piccoli) in LA MORT EN CE JARDIN, Padre Nazario (Francisco Rabal) in NAZARIN, Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) in VIRIDIANA, Simón (Claudio Brook) in SIMON DEL DESIERTO and even Ramón Vazquez (Gérard Philipe) in LA FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO, who is the only one of these whose life is not devoted to a religious practice, but who achieves, as well as the others, a great capacity of doing everything wrong while trying to do something right.

Except for LA FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO, the Church is always present as the obvious context of those errors, offering, in extremis, a justification through its Doctors, which is refused just as Nazario, Viridiana and even Lizardi begin a life in much closer complicity with the Devils - the anti-heroes.


The picaresque bounds.  


  Within this group there are three main sub-groups: the anti-heroes, the blind men and the dwarfs.

 The anti-hero, as he was characterized by Rebolledo, is present in almost all the films. The character is assumed by a simple transfigurative constellation, where the pairing one personage - one actor assumes entirely the functions of the character, or by a multiple personage connected in different degrees of transfiguration to one or more actors.

One personage - one actor:

D. Ramiro - (Fernando Soler) in EL GRAN CALAVERA;

Susana - (Rosita Quintana) in SUSANA, DEMONIO Y CARNE;

Pedro - (Pedro Armendariz) in EL BRUTO;

Francisco - (Francisco de Montemayor) in EL;

Alejandro - (Jorge Mistral) in ABISMOS DE PASION/CUMBRES                                                           BORRASCOSAS;


Shark - (Georges Marchal) in LA MORT EN CE JARDIN;

Jorge - (Francisco Rabal) in VIRIDIANA;

Cèlestine - (Jeanne Moreau) in LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DE CHAMBRE;

El Diablo - (Silvia Pinal) in SIMON DEL DESIERTO and

Tristana - (Catherine Deneuve) in TRISTANA.


The complexity of the character  may, however, need more than one actor to carry the necessary dramatic functions within the same personage. This is obviously not the main reason that justifies the first example of the following constellation, but it is, indeed, the only reason, in spite of the production accident, that justifies the second one.

One personage - two actors:

Don Quintin - (Alfonso Muñoz) in DON QUINTIN EL AMARGAO and                                           (Fernando Soler) in LA HIJA DEL ENGAÑO and

Conchita - (Angela Molina / Carole Bouquet) in CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR.

Only one film shows such a complexity of interrelated functions and characters that it developes the imposition of two personages upon one actor:

Séverine / Belle de Jour - (Catherine Deneuve) in BELLE DE JOUR.             This film therefore becomes the narrative antipode of CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR and could, in fact, also be called «Cet obscur objet du plaisir».


The complexity of the anti-hero sometimes requires a conjunction of complementary aspects in different personages and actors, organizing a constellation of the type two personages - two actors:

as connivent aspects,

The Man / The Girl - (Gaston Modot / Lya Lys) in L'AGE D'OR;

as opposite aspects,

Pedro / Jaibo - (Alfonso Mejía / Roberto Cobo) in LOS OLVIDADOS;

as latent symbiosis,

Robinson / Friday - (Dan O'Herlihy / Jaime Fernández) in ROBINSON                                                                                         CRUSOE;

as a necessary symbiosis,

Valerio / Sandro - (Georges Marchal / Gianni Esposito) in CELA                                                                               S'APPELLE L'AURORE;

as instinctive symbiosis,

Ramón Vazquez / Inés Vargas - (Gérard Philipe / María Félix) in LA                                                                     FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO;

and as transcendental symbiosis,

Pierre / Jean - (Paul Frankeur / Laurent Terzieff) in LA VOIE LACTÉE.

One film demands a constellation of three personages - three actors:

Caireles / Lupita / Tarrajas - (Carlos Navarro / Lilia Prado / Fernando Soto) in LA ILUSION VIAJA EN TRANVIA.

And another one presents such a generalized, as well as  metanarrative, character of the anti-hero that it requires several personages and actors to perform the narrative merry-go-round of the plot:

The Anguiano's clan versus The Menhaca's clan in EL RIO Y LA MUERTE.


Left is a group of seven films where the anti-hero is not transfigured by an actor, an actress or any other  kind of personification. The anti-hero is, here, an almighty and omnipresent relationship among the different characters and functions of the metaphor, a relationship which is signified by a concrete sign, a group of signs or the interrelations among those signs.

In UN CHIEN ANDALOU the sign of that relationship is the virtual "Dog".

In SUBIDA AL CIELO it is the unexpected chain of picaresque vicissitudes that strikes and delays Oliverio (Esteban Márquez).

In NAZARIN it is the questionable omnipresent character of Good Deeds.

In THE YOUNG ONE there are the mutual relations of dependence and subjugation among the characters.

In EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR the sign is the "Angel".


And finaly in LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ it is again the metanarrative merry-go-round, a device that was already utilized, very successfully, by Max Ophuls in LA RONDE (50) in order to generalize and melt together the feelings and experiences of the different characters as Roy Armes put it in his work about the French cinema:

                             "…while the characters change their partners, their gestures remain the same, so that they are in turn deceivers and deceived, involuntarily echoing each other's words and sentiments."22

To finish the characterization of the Buñuelian/picaresque anti-hero we can add to Rebolledo's definition the notion of crusader of the "amour fou", which, again according to Roy Armes, recalls  in the later films Buñuel's earlier surrealism, practicing a

                             "…constant stress on the veniality of the police, the rapacity of mothers and the dubiousness of virginity."23

But the crusade encompasses much more than that. It is a struggle for life and its instinctive morality, against all the dogmas and intellectual blindness of this Milky Way, whether it is named D. Carmelo,   D. Amalio, or a nameless blind casualty of war as the beaten blind man in L'AGE D'OR was supposed to be classified in the original script24.

As we saw, Rebolledo characterized the blind men as the renegades of "a traditional inoperative moral". It may seem a contradiction, this repulsion of a stigma on one side and the refusal of a false moral on the other25, and in fact it is, i. e., it is a heresy.

The counterpoint of that heresy is personified by the dwarfs who are tenors of a genuine tenderness, except in the case of the Psychologist (Piéral) in CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR, who is depicted as a shrewd gossiper. But knowing what Buñuel thought of the professional psychologists, we must admit that the dwarf transfigures it with some tenderness.



The pataphysical bounds.


The multifaceted character of the devilish anti-heroes, heretical blind men and amorous dwarfs is, in fact, the carrier of an older dramatic tradition than the picaresque and the morality. The Rabelaisian humour of the Buñuelian metaphors goes back to the dithyrambic ridiculing of the hero by the satyrs, to the exchangeable situations of the Commedia dell'arte and to the pataphysical merciless slaughter of the bourgeois melodramatic values. But instead of a debouchment in that endless symbolism of the absurdists, Buñuel assembled each metaphor like a dadaistic collage of Gregerías. The oxymoric effect of such a pataphysical strategy is a part of the pedagogical value of the metaphors and is strongly present in some personages, for example, the Bishops at the beginning and the Duke of Blangis/Christ (Lionel Salem) at the end of L'AGE D'OR, the Military Column in LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ or the Hens' legs and feathers in EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR, leading us to ask, what are they doing there? And why?

These questions, whatever the answers may be, are the results of that pedagogical strategy.


Finally, some words about the apparition of the same actors in different credits. This is an usual occurrence in the Buñuelian films: Fernando Rey, perhaps the most Buñuelian face, in four films; Michel Piccoli in six; Catherine Deneuve in two and Francisco Rabal in three, to name only a few.

It is possible to see that these actors assume the transfiguration of constant types and that the characters they embody in the metaphors are reflections of those types. Taking, for example, Catherine Deneuve, it becomes inevitable to establish a transference of connotations, associated to her physiognomy, posture and gesture, from Séverine to Tristana. Her facial expression as an "im-sign" becomes what Barthes called a "visage-objet" when analyzing the expression of Greta Garbo26, providing a new dimension for signification and inference in the later film.

Having this in mind we may depart to the remaining exercises of inference, those that concern the themes and the functions.



3.      The themes.


The thematic aspects of the films have already been analyzed by several writers departing from different points of view. Especially interesting are the studies made by Durgnat, although he sometimes confuses themes with characters and functions, and by Drouzy who considers the themes, or their conjunction, as the fundamental parts of a specific narrative architecture, generally assuming patterns of symmetry around a central theme27.

It is not worthwhile to redo this type of work. But it is worthwhile, indeed, to verify in which way the themes are consonant with the epistemological environment of the "homoentomologicus", his instincts and inner feelings, i. e., in which way the cinematographic equivalents of the themes are "the paradigm of an inherently equivocal connection between self and the world"28, i. e., the paradigm of moral and heretical feelings.

Buñuel's thematic universe is organized around five great peripheral themes which turn around a central aggregative theme - the world of instincts. These five themes are: Religion, Erotism, Rebellion, Dream and Metanarrative.


The following figure gives an approximate image of such a structure:





Each one of these themes is not a tight world, isolated from the others. On the contrary, each theme presents different aspects of interpenetration and complementarity, which manifest themselves in a thematic organization of the metaphors based upon equivalents that are often common to different themes (e. g., erotic connotations within the religious themes, acts of rebellion within the safe sphere of dreams, or a dream as a theological argument, an erotic escape or a revolutionary ideal) as common traits of the "homoentomologicus", expressed through common exercises of memory. These memorable exercises are enclosed in the metanarrative sphere, which touches and encompasses all the themes, i. e., the story is the act of memorizing the story.




Theological. Where the greatest dogma of human civilization - the existence of God - is the central theme. The most outstanding equivalents of this theme are the Maitre d'hôtel Richard and the Marquis de Sade in LA VOIE LACTÉE.

Eucharistic. There is an enormous number of equivalents of the eucharistic themes, showing quite well, along with the liturgical equivalents, that the main question does not concern a theological idea but rather the rite that legitimates that idea. From the large number of equivalents we can mention the utilization of the holy chalice for profane drinking which is legitimated by the use of the Bible's pages to light a fire and as toilet paper in LA MORT EN CE JARDIN and, of course, that sublime discussion between the mad Priest (François Maistre) and the Chief of police (Claude Cerval) in LA VOIE LACTÉE about the eucharistic mystery, which is masterfully synthetised by the Owner of the French hostel:

--«Le corps du Christ est contenu dans le pain comme le lièvre dans le paté.»

--«Hérésie!», shouts the priest. He is mad, of course. Much more sane is Pierre who asks what happens to the body of Christ when he arrives in the stomach. That is the true mystery.

Blasphemic. Blasphemy and heresy are the form and content of an ideology and even in this case the examples are obviously many. But it is interesting to see how Buñuel feels obliged to excuse himself for the blasphemies, for example when answering the reproach and the apology he received apropos SIMON DEL DESIERTO:

                             "On m'a aussi reproché les bénédictions de Simon. Quand il bénit un      grillon, un nuage et tout ce qu'il voit, c'est parce que, à ce moment, il est heureux. A un moment, il dit: «Je ne sais plus quoi bénir? Donner des bénédictions est amusant et n'offense personne». Mais il réagit et ajoute: «Mon Dieu pardonne-moi. Qu'est-ce que je suis en train de                         dire?» Moi, je me demande où est le blasphème?"29

It is as though Buñuel was saying - My God what am I doing?

The fact is that, as we already saw for the didactic aspects, the device of antiphrasis that characterizes all his work, as Claude Gauter showed30, also characterizes his statements. The heretic, like Priscilliano (Jean-Claude Carrière) in LA VOIE LACTÉE, does always ask where the heresy is.

Christ/iconological. The equivalents of Christ's iconographic items appear here and there in the films, but together they constitute a theme presenting an hypothesis: If we transfigure the image of Christ, then we transpose his essence, his soul if he had one, into the iconological meaning of the equivalents. This is exactly what the cinematographic image of the Christ/Duke (Lionel Salem) in L'Age D'OR does in the Buñuelian/Sadistic (in the literal meaning of the term) metaphor. The same is true for the insert of the laughing image of Christ versus the relation priest/prostitute in NAZARIN. Other interesting forms of Christ transfiguration are the composition of the beggars' Last Supper with a blind Christ in the shape of D. Amalio (José Calvo) in VIRIDIANA versus a healthy Christ (Bernard Verley) performing his deeds through the blind men in LA VOIE LACTÉE.

Idolatry. This is a theme directly related with the previous one, especially with regard to the idolatry of inorganic equivalents - Fetishism - related with the Christ and the Virgin: rosaries, crucifix/knife, crown of thorns, feet, etc… The vehicles of these metaphors are obviously connected with both the religious and the erotic thematic spheres.

Sacerdotal. A complex theme organized upon the synthesis of three sub-themes: piety, chastity and ire. Their equivalents are mainly present in the characterization of personages like Nazario, Viridiana, Simon, Lizardi, the Bishop (Julien Bertheau) of LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE and priest Fleetwood (Claudio Brook) in THE YOUNG ONE. The theme, through the repetition and renewal of its equivalents, teaches us about the impossibility of being infinitely pious or chaste when our whole culture, including our instinctive reactions, claims revenge as a form of justice, or as the Christ proclaims in LA VOIE LACTÉE : « Je ne suis pas venu apporter la paix , mais le glaive» and  when our instincts constantly announce to the Judeo-Christian men, including priests, monks and eremites, the presence of the devilish woman. This is probably the reason, and Buñuel stresses it connecting this theme with that of erotism, why the leading female Biblical personages are either virgins or prostitutes. The respective equivalents are to be found in several conjunctions of characters, e. g., Lizardi/Djin (Simone Signoret) and Lizardi/Maria (Michèle Girardon) in LA MORT EN CE JARDIN; Nazario/Andara (Rita Macedo) and Nazario/Beatriz (Marga Lopez) in NAZARIN; Simon /El Diablo in SIMON DEL DESIERTO and the Monks/the Nurse (Milena Vukotic) in LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ.

Liturgical. As we saw for the eucharistic metaphors, the primacy of rite is the most important theological question in the films. Therefore the liturgical elements are rather suitable items as equivalents of repetition - - ritualization of the themes. That is what the never ending mass in EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR stands for. The same equivalence can be found in the Mandatum - the washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday - in EL, which is a true «Te Deum Laudamus» to the feminine (virginal?) feet. The liturgical equivalent of heresy is transfigured by Priscilliano In LA VOIE LACTÉE when he teaches us the justness of heresy performed according to a liturgy of erotism.




We have already noticed some of these within the religious sphere, which is very natural since the instincts that push us to both spheres are equally mystical and surreal, sometimes making it rather difficult to distinguish between the two themes. That is the case of the scenes showing the apparition of the Virgin (Claude Jetter) among the trees, giving a rosary to the heretic François (Daniel Pilon) and the apparition of the Girl (Claude Jetter) between the sheets of François' bed at the Spanish hostel giving him what only God knows and we may guess.

Masturbation. Within the erotic themes the equivalents of masturbation assume great importance. They are present in a large number of metaphors: the movement of Buñuel's right hand when sharpening the razor in the beginning of UN CHIEN ANDALOU; the movement of Lya Lys' hands when buffing her nails in L'AGE D'OR; Meche (Amelia Fuentes) spilling the donkey's milk over her thighs in LOS OLVIDADOS, although this may also be seen as a metaphor of other forms of the sexual act; Viridiana clumsily grasping the teats of the cow in VIRIDIANA; and Tristana's handling of the phallic bell clapper in TRISTANA. All these examples remind us of the lonesome character of sexuality, which is an extreme proof of the loneliness of the dramatis personae within an environment which, through epistemological dogmas and praxis, does everything to castrate their characters' instincts, a situation that is best exemplified by the amputation of Tristana's leg as a sign of the submission of Don Lope (Fernando Rey) to the dominant erotic, social and moral values in TRISTANA.



REBEL METAPHORS.                                                                                


The theme of rebellion is a central aspect in Buñuel's ideology - the revolutionary heretical surrealism. But it is also a central aspect of his moralism and, as Buache said, an attempt to change the world. However, the thematic rebellion is not only confined to social revolt. It is equally cultural and narrative revolt. These multiple aspects of the theme  are easily identified in LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE, but they are, in fact, present in all the films from first to  last, as we will see in the metanarrative metaphors, although assuming often an heretical view of rebellion, as we saw in LA FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO and as it is expressed by the «Vivan las caenas!» of LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ, i. e., teaching us that there is no freedom in absolute terms, but only in relative, metaphorical terms, e. g., those of dream and fiction.



ONEIRIC METAPHORS.                                                                              


We have already approached the oneiric character of the records, which  reveals some aspects of the thematic equivalents of the dream.

In most films, made in different countries and by different filmmakers until the sixties (when the French new wave, especially through Godard, began a consistent breakdown of the dominant illusion mechanisms), whenever there was a dream-like sequence, the filmmaker was generally careful enough to provide some information explaining that character of dream. Besides, it was a common praxis to distinguish between the dream as a theme of the film and the themes of the dreams in the film, for example as in Bergman's SMULTRONSTÄLLET (57). There was a certain number of identifiable (decodifiable) cinematographic devices (soft filters, lap dissolves, double exposures, extreme wide angle lenses, watered surfaces, the altered sleep or the abrupt awakening of the dreaming personage) that in different contexts could tell us : attention, this is going to be, this is, or this was a dream. Buñuel breaks those codes; in fact he has been doing this since UN CHIEN ANDALOU under the open disguise of surrealism, and constructs the metaphors upon identical equivalents both for dream and for "reality". This was one of the reasons why BELLE DE JOUR was so uncomfortable for a great many critics. This fascinating film is, in fact, the most outstanding example of the Buñuelian subversion of the dominant reading criteria that usually helped us to identify the nature of the themes and their relation to the equivalents. The next best example is LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE, where the equivalence between the dreams as a theme and the themes of the dreams constitutes the very structure of the film.

From now on (not necessarily in terms of time), everything will be possible and the step to metanarrativity is an incredibly small one.

But before we enter that surrounding sphere of themes,there are  two main aspects that must be considered: Death and Insects.

These have been identified by several authors as two main themes in the Buñuelian films. I disagree. They are, indeed, always present in the films but they assume much more the character of transvestite paraphrasing of other themes then the character of independent ones per se.

Death is always connected with the erotic theme, either as a pure transvestite of Eros, as for example in the necrophilic scenes of VIRIDIANA and BELLE DE JOUR, or as a sublimation act of the sexual instincts, as it is represented by Archibaldo's victims and by the piano transfigurations in UN CHIEN ANDALOU, LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE and LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ.

The so called theme of Insects is an integral part of the metanarrative theme sphere, serving as items of paraphrase, e. g., the ants coming out of the Young Man's hand in UN CHIEN ANDALOU as a reinforced statement of his lack of passion, or serving as simple separators instead of fades, curtains, dissolves and irises; the scorpions opening L'AGE D'OR; the bees over the donkey in LAS HURDES as a lap dissolve connecting two aspects of the Hurdan conditions - the inhabitants lose a necessary donkey because they also need the bees; and the rescued bee in VIRIDIANA as an iris focusing the decision of getting closer to the illegitimate son.

The famous Buñuelian inserts of insects are exercises of entomological/cinematographic paraphrasing within Buñuel's  metanarrative approach. They are signs of his entomological vision of  humans.



THE METANARRATIVE METAPHORS.                                                   


Almost all metaphorical examples that we have looked at carry the virus of metanarrativity. They are the meta - aphoristic - metaphors, dealing with the very conditions, premises and syllogism, of the narration. Departing from ideologically different standpoints, atheism, entomological moralism, Marxism and surrealism, the Buñuelian metaphors develope a consistent heretical distancing (epic heresies?) from the themes that embody those points of view. The same is true for the narratological syllogism in which metanarrativity is a Pandora's box, opening each story.

It is not by mere coincidence of isolated items that the Buñuelian metaphors come to an end with the action of carrying a sack away, filled with unknown contents, in CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR, after having used a black Japanese box as a liberating factor in BELLE DE JOUR and after having begun with that striped box in UN CHIEN ANDALOU, a film that warns us of all the narrative evils and devils that were just about to come: 

 Still puzzled with the title, the spectator identifies a light shining in his darkened habitat, and as in any other fairy tale he reads the classic        "Il était une fois…". But what follows is not a traditional narration carried by traditional characters and functions, which by that time (1929) had already provided the cinema with full membership in the club of the story-telling-arts.

The narration is going to be subverted. The narrative syllogism, which is constructed upon premises of established sequences of space and time, will become a fallacious one.

A man (Luis Buñuel) on a balcony, at night, dressed with an open collar shirt, sharpens a razor. He looks at the sky and sees a thin cloud approaching the moon. A girl (Simone Mareuil) is sitting with open eyes and the man ( the same one? he suddenly has a tie with diagonal stripes) extends the razor towards the girl's left eye, which is opened even wider  by the left hand of the man. The thin cloud (almost a blade) crosses the moon. The razor cuts, distinctly, the eye letting its liquid run out.

The function of this sequence and of its characters is highly symbolic (in spite of Buñuel's counter-arguments) and has been identified by some of the Buñuelian authors as a form of cutting the routine-way-of-looking-at-the-images. Others have identified it as the surrealistic need to shock the public. Both are right. But I prefer to call the first an incision belonging to the pedagogy of rupture, in which the habit of looking without seeing is instinctively subverted in its very form of reading images safely according to the accepted references, pushing the spectator to ask himself if it really was the girl's eye. The answer to this question may be given by the second identification, which I would call the pedagogy of terror, knocking out the spectators' concepts and leaving him defenseless, or at least unsafe, against the following message.

From now on the spectator will have great difficulties to establish any safe reference point with the aggressive man, the seductive woman, the aliens that come, go and stay on the screen. They can easily be considered as nothing more than their own equivalents, spread from a Pandora's box into a narrative universe with unknown laws of time-space relativity, although, showing recognizable patterns of repetition. But they can as well be the equivalents of the spectators' own instincts and inner feelings, making him  engaged in and  receptive to the screened emotions, just as he may stay an alien in contemplation of the work.

If there were any absolutly open works, UN CHIEN ANDALOU would certainly be one of them. Anyway, this film is a reference point in several senses. It was the first "really" surrealistic film. It was the first attempt to achieve a systematically non-referent iconography to anything other than the narrative structure itself - and it is therefore metanarrative. And it is the first stone of the pedagogical-moral building that we know today as the work of Luis Buñuel. A building that the spectators construct themselves, confronting their own epistemological expectations with the metaphorical functions.



4.      The functions.                                                               


The functions assumed by the characters of the films are structured along two main axes which render the position of the pedagogical-moral values of the metaphors. One of those axes orders the functions according to their position between the voyeuristic and cathartic values. The other orders them according to their position between the values of vice and virtue. From the total of the thirty one functions identified by Propp in the folk tales31 there is a group of eleven that can be identified mainly as functions of vice and a group of ten that can be mainly identified as functions of virtue, four of them being common to both categories. Another four functions balance between both groups  and can be identified as belonging to the environmental rules, and ten more are mainly absent from the metaphors. These numbers do absolutely not encompass all the existing functions in the films, nor does the order of presentation correspond to an established and constant order in the films. However, such an enunciation is a necessary device to identify some of the most important functions that are implicit in the entire Buñuelian opus, showing different patterns that encompass environmental rules, values of vice and virtue in an heretical approach to the traditional functions of the folk tales providing general functions of voyeurism and catharsis.

All the functions have a voyeuristic value, which is an inherently filmic characteristic, and some of them also assume a cathartic value. As a voyeur, the anti-hero provokes the action with his presence and intentions, not needing to take the leading role  in some of the functions, while the spectators hide behind him. Those functions can be identified as having an intrinsic voyeuristic value. Catharsis happens when the anti-hero, or his antagonists, act directly upon the victim, the environment or its rules, offering to the spectators the possibility of sharing the function in the safety of darkness.

As we saw in the study of the characters it is not possible to identify in the Buñuelian films a traditional hero or a traditional villain. They both melt together in the picaresque anti-hero, therefore making it possible for the same personage to assume functions of vice and virtue simultaneously. Like human insects the characters perform the functions in an undiscriminated  (instinctive) way, generally with the same degree of epic motivation, just as if an invisible almighty hand was manipulating them. This fact does not influence the values of the functions since they are "independent from how and by whom they are fullfilled", as Propp establishes in his first thesis32.

 I will cite Propp's own definition33 at the beginning of my commentary on each function, in order to help clarify their meaning.

1) "Absence". "One of the members of a family is absent from home". This is an environmental function of voyeuristic value that serves to introduce us to the plot and to acquaint with some of its items. Example: Pierre (Jean Sorel) leaves home every day to work in the hospital, leaving his wife alone in BELLE DE JOUR.

2) "Interdiction". "An interdiction is addressed to the hero". Environmental rules refuse and restrain the liberty of the personages related to the spectators mainly in a voyeuristic way. Example: the Man and the Girl in L'AGE D'OR are not allowed to make love in the presence of the voyeurs (Majorcans and spectators).

3) "Violation". "The interdiction is violated". An important function of virtue and with a clearly cathartic value. Example: the Man and the Girl really do try to make love.

4) "Reconnaissance". "The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance". A function of vice with cathartic value. Example: Francisco looks for the owner of the fascinating feet in EL.

5) "Delivery". "The villain receives information about his victim". A function of vice (denunciation) generally performed by a character of «virtue» where the anti-hero is a voyeur (receiver), and so is the spectator. Example: Raul (Luis Beristain) informs his best friend, Francisco, about Gloria.

6) "Fraud". "The villain attempts to deceive his victim in order to take possession of him or his belongings". A function of vice generally performed with disguised intentions and with the cathartic value of possession. Example: D. Carmelo (Miguel Inclán) possesses Ojitos (Mario Ramírez) with the excuse of taking care of him.

7) "Complicity". "The victim submits to deception and thereby unwittingly helps his enemy". This function of vice appears as the predestining of the victim; it is a sign of cathartic lack of will or submission. Example: Gloria helps Francisco and Ojitos helps D. Carmelo.

8) "Villainy". "The villain causes harm or injury to a member of a family".

All the films are voyeuristic records of justifiable and accepted villainy within the environmental rules although subverted by an intrinsic vicious value, which also implements catharsis. This is one of the most moralizing functions. Example: Ricardo (Luis Castaneda) kills Alejandro in CUMBRES BORRASCOSAS; Djin denounces Shark in LA MORT EN CE JARDIN; and Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) drugs, through Ramona (Margarita Lozano), his niece Viridiana.

9) "Lack mediation". "One member of a family lacks something and this misfortune is made known". A voyeuristic function of virtue, even redemption, generally carried by an outsider. Example: the speaker who informs us in LAS HURDES; the introducing images and the speaker in the beginning of LOS OLVIDADOS; Julio - the waiter (Claudio Brook) in EL ANGEL EXTERMINADOR; and Husson (Michel Piccoli) in BELLE DE JOUR.

10) "Counteraction". "The seeker agrees to or decides upon counteraction". A function of virtue informing the personages and the spectators, mainly as voyeurs. Example: Célestine accepts to become engaged with Joseph (Georges Geret) in LE JOURNAL D'UNE FEMME DE CHAMBRE; and Jorge informs Viridiana that he is going to change things in the estate.

11) "Departure". "The hero leaves home". This is mainly a function of absence. We can notice some variations of it in only a few films like SUBIDA AL CIELO and eventually in CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR, but in general we can say that this function is absent from the total body of the work, just as faith is absent from the world of SIMON DEL DESIERTO and religiosity is absent from LA VOIE LACTÉE34.

12) "Testing". "The hero is tested, interrogated, attacked, etc. which prepares the way for his receiving either a magical agent or helper". This is an environmental function of vice and virtue which tests the personage's reaction to those items. Example: Don Lope denounces the perils of marriage to Tristana; Don Jaime asks Viridiana to put on the marriage dress of his former wife; Nazario is asked to cure the dying child; Ramón Vázquez is asked to betray his ideological teacher in LA FIEVRE MONTE A EL PAO.

13) "Reaction". "The hero reacts to actions of the future donor". The same values of the anterior function are still present in this one, but now assuming also a cathartic value. Example: Tristana obeys and learns about the perils of marriage; Viridiana accepts the disguise; Nazario accepts the false miracle; and Ramón Vázquez betrays the professor.

14) "Provision". "The hero acquires the use of a magical agent". Now the function has turned into a completely cathartic one assuming aspects of virtue and vice. Example: Tristana refuses to marry the lover Horacio (Franco Nero); Viridiana renouces the monastical life; Nazario realizes the limitations of faith; Ramón Vázquez acquires political power.

15) "Transference". "The hero is transferred, delivered or led to the whereabouts of an object of search". An environmental function of voyeuristic effect to put the personages in a latent sphere of action. Example: Conchita moves and so does Mathieu (Fernando Rey) in CET OBSCUR OBJET DU DÉSIR; Nazario travels to new places of trial; Pedro comes home after running away from the reformatory.

16) "Struggle". "The hero and the villain join in direct combat". This is mainly a function of absence. Although there is a great number of fights where the anti-hero is involved, they do not represent a struggle between vice and virtue, except in one case: the fight between Pedro and Jaibo in LOS OLVIDADOS.

17) "Marking". "The hero is branded". This is a typical environmental function of voyeuristic value. Example: Tristana's leg amputation; Séverine's bumping into Husson at Anaïs' brothel; Archibaldo's dependence on his obsession.

18) "Victory". "The villain is defeated". This function is completely absent from the filmic structures (possibly with the exception of Don Quintin's being defeated by his son in law) and its constant absence represents a true heretical approach to the dominant narrative structures of melodramatic story-telling.

19) "Liquidation". "The initial misfortune or lack is liquidated". This function assumes the value of virtue and catharsis in some films. Example: Archibaldo is cured of his obssesion; Mathieu satisfies his desire. But we cannot affirm the same for the cases of Séverine, Tristana, Shark/Maria or Robinson /Friday where there are too many signs of latent lack at the end of the metaphor.

20) "Return". "The hero returns". This function is absent as a consequence of the absence of departure.

21) "Pursuit". "The hero is pursued". This function is also absent, denoting the acceptance of the anti-hero within his environment.

22) "Rescue". "The rescue of the hero from pursuit". Obviously absent.

23) "Arrival". "The hero, unrecognized, arrives home or in another country". Although there are no melodramatic functions of return, pursuit, or rescue, there is, however, a function of arrival assuming a voyeuristic value of virtue in some films. Example: Simon arrives in New York; Jean and Pierre arrive in Santiago de Compostella. In other films it assumes values of vice and catharsis arriving at a new, or a disguised state of mind. Example: Francisco, EL, in the convent; Viridiana at the estate; the sphinxes on the beach of UN CHIEN ANDALOU.

24) "Unfounded claims". "A false hero presents unfounded claims"35. This function is absent since the anti-hero is always a false and a true hero. His claims are always founded upon the environmental acceptance.

25) "Difficult task". "A difficult task is proposed to the hero". This is a voyeuristic function generally touching aspects of vice. Example: the bourgeois group decides to eat in LE CHARME DISCRET DE LA BOURGEOISIE; and les Legendre (Jean Rochefort and Pascale Audret) decide to find their daughter in LE FANTOME DE LA LIBERTÉ.

26) "Solution". "A task is accomplished". This function is mainly absent, contributing very largely to the openness of the work. Example: the bourgeois group finds great difficulties in the eating act; les Legendre cannot find their daughter, (although they find her as an absurd/pataphysical solution) since she was always there.

27) "Recognition". "The hero is recognized". A voyeuristic function of virtue. Example: Tristana assumes her place at home; Séverine does the same; Viridiana is accepted by Jorge and Ramona; Don Quintin recognizes his daughter.

28) "Exposure". "The false hero or villain is exposed". This function is only present because the recognition of the hero also implies the exposure of the villain; otherwise it is absent.

29) "Transfiguration". "The hero is given a new appearance". A cathartic function of virtue. Example: Tristana looks back into her former life and physical appearance; Séverine again hears the landau; Viridiana looks more sensual when she goes to Jorge.

30) "Punishment". "The villain is punished". This function is conspicuously absent.

31) "Wedding". "The hero is married and ascends the throne". This function exists in many films with a cathartic value of vice. Example: Don Lope marries Tristana; Archibaldo gets Lavinia; Shark gets Maria; Alejandro joins Catarina; Caireles gets Lupita; etc…


As we saw before, with the help of Buache, the films of Buñuel diverged from that group (paradigm) generally called avant-garde film, and although Buache prefers to classify them as the true examples of avant-gardism, I find it more accurate to place them within a different genre (and paradigm) - the "poem film".

From the many and different patterns of connections among the functions, either present or absent ones, we can clearly see that the narrative structure of the work assumes one principal aspect.  The "poem film" diverges basically from the melodramatic narrative structure (inherited from the folk tales) which characterizes the dominant genres (Hollywood paradigm) in the cinema, but retains enough points of contact with it to become an heretical and moral, therefore pedagogical, statement within that cinema.

With the establishment of this last statement, my study has basically reached its destination - the determination of the pedagogical value of the Buñuelian cinema.

Looking at what the different cinematographic genres and paradigms have achieved concerning the enrichment of the film culture and the expansion of its codes, we must conclude that the Buñuelian metaphors, as poem films, have contributed much more to the development of the reading capacity of the spectators than the great majority of all other films.





1.      Pedagogical paradigms.                                              


 From a pedagogical point of view there are three main types of cinematographic paradigms: the affirmative film (Hollywood paradigm) which confirms and coincides with the dominant narrative structures; the interrogative film (so called avant-garde paradigm) which steps out completely from the dominant narrative structures; and the heretical film (poem paradigm) which remains within the dominant narrative structures subverting them from the inside.

The films of Luis Buñuel  belong to this last category.


2.      Heretical pedagogy.                                                      


 The pedagogical value of heresy in the poem film is based upon different degrees of subversion of content and form which, in confrontation with the dominant expectations, leads the spectator, through a process of voyeurism and catharsis, to ask questions within the openness of the film. In the Buñuelian case the pedagogical value of heresy is directly connected to the filmmaker's ideological moralism expressed in the thematic and semantic cohesion of his work.


3.      Layers of the Buñuelian poem film within the universe of human entomology.                                                                   


 The foregoing conclusions legitimize the following paradigmatic model framing the work of Luis Buñuel:




The layers assume their place in the paradigmatic structure through the process of recording/filming the "souvenirs" of human reality, which may be ordered as chronicles and accounts of memory, "real" and/or fictive, representing a continuum of concepts and experiences.


4.      The hypothesis as thesis.     


  Finally, and although some of the Buñuel films apparently show divergent patterns, the totality of Buñuel's work must be considered as a vehicle of considerable pedagogical value as a result of its heretical, moral and open character.



Last comment.  


  Buñuel's films are an intrinsic part of western culture and encompass in their openness an incredibly large number of significant aspects of that cultural environment.

The present work tries to be a contribution, from a specific point of view, to the already vast legacy of research upon those items. But their richess of signification still requires other studies, for the benefit of our knowledge and for Buñuel's ire or fun in heaven, or wherever he is…







0       José Zorrilla, Don  Juan Tenorio, (1ª ed. 1844, Madrid), Editorial Huemul S.A., Buenos Aires, 1967, p. 63, a part that Buñuel played several times when he was a student in Madrid; [Wherever I passed / reason I trampled, / virtue I scorned, / justice I cheated and women   I sold. / I climbed down to the huts, / I climbed up to the palaces, / and into the cloisters I climbed / and I left bitter memories of me all over. / I didn't recognize the sacred, neither was there occasion or place / that my audacity respected; / neither did I stop to distinguish / the cleric from the layman.], (my own translation).




1       For example, as the title of the book by Martin Drouzy Kæteren Buñuel, Film/Rhodos, Køpenhavn, 1970; the title of a film series arranged by the Portuguese "Cineclube de Faro" in 1986, in which the film VIRIDIANA was shown, Ecran  nr 42, Faro,  Jan/Fev 86; and the title of the article on L. Buñuel in the catalogue of the "Lunds studenternas filmstudio", HT 86.

2       Luis Buñuel, Mon dernier soupir, Editions Robert Laffont, Paris, 1982.

3       J. Francisco Aranda, Luis Buñuel, biografia critica, Editorial Lumen, Barcelona, 1970, (2ª ed. 1975).

4       L. Buñuel,  op. cit., p. 274.



1       Umberto Eco, L'oeuvre ouverte , Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1965, p. 28; my notion of «open work» is, of course, also influenced by Eco's later writings touching (and developing) the subject in the chapter on the Theory of Sign Production in A Theory of Semiotics, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1979, pp. 151 - 313; The Role of the Reader, Hutchinson, London, 1981; and in the chapter on the Metaphor in Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, Macmillan Press, London, 1984, pp. 87 - 129.

2       Vladimir Propp, MORPHOLOGY OF THE FOLKTALE, International Journal of American Linguistics, Vol. 24  Nr 4, Indiana University Research Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, Bloomington, October 1958, p. 18.

3       Ibidem, p. 20.

4           "     , p. 20.

5       As was shown in Will Wright's structural study of the western SIXGUNS & SOCIETY, University of California Press, L. A., 1975.

6       PHOTOGRAPHERS ON PHOTOGRAPHY , ed. by Nathan Lyons, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1966, P. 112.

7       Susan Sontag, On Photography , Penguin Books, N.Y.,…,1979, p. 123.

8       Francisco Aranda, Luis Buñuel: A CRITICAL BIOGRAPHY, Secker & Warburg, London, 1975, p. 275.

9       Ibidem, p. 275.



1       For a rather complete bibliography until 1984, see Agustin Sanchez Vidal, Luis Buñuel: obra cinematografica, Ediciones J.C., Madrid, 1984, pp. 397 - 418.

2       Luis Buñuel in LA RÉVOLUTION SURRÉALISTE,  Paris, Nr 12, Décembre 1929, p. 34.

          About this subject see also Luis Buñuel's Mon dernier soupir, p. 132.

3       Reproduced by L'AVANT-SCÉNE DU CINÉMA, Nr 27-28, Paris, 1963,

          pp. 24  - 27.

4       Henry Miller,The Cosmological Eye, reproduced partly as The Golden Age  in the anthology edited by Joan Mellen The World of Luis Buñuel, Oxford University Press, N. Y., 1978, p. 178.

5       Francisco Marroquín, La pantalla y el telón, Ed. Cénit, Madrid, 1935.

6       J. Francisco Aranda, Luis Buñuel, biografia crítica, pp. 21 ff.

7       Ado Kyrou, Le surréalisme au cinéma, Arcanes, Paris, 1953.

8       J. Francisco Aranda, Cinema de vanguardia en España, Guimarães Editora, Lisboa, 1953.

9       ENTRETIEN AVEC LUIS BUÑUEL et Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, par André Bazin, Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr 36, juin, 1954, p. 2.

10     Ibidem, p. 10.

11     Freddy Buache, LUIS BUNUEL, Premier Plan Nr 13, Lyon, 1960, p. 1.

12     Ibidem, p. 1.

13          "    , p. 1.

14          "    , p. 2.

15     Luis Buñuel, A STATEMENT  in FILM CULTURE , N. Y., Nr 21,summer 1960, pp. 41 - 42.

16     Ado kyrou, luis bunuel, Seghers, Paris, 1962, p. 9.

17     Ibidem, p. 23.

18     Ado Kyrou, Luis Buñuel: An Introduction, Simon & Schuster, N. Y.,1963.

19     Claude Gauter, BUÑUEL ET L'ANTIPHRASE  in études cinématographiques  vol.1 ed. by Michel Estève, Paris,1962, pp.79-97.

20     Michel Estève, L'ANGE EXTERMINATEUR - LE HUIS-CLOS DE LA CONDITION HUMAINE, in études cinématographiques, vol. 2 ed. by Michel Estève, Paris, 1963, p. 224.

21     Alan Lovell, ANARCHIST CINEMA, Peace News, B.F.I., London, 1963, pp.38 - 39.

22     Ibidem, p. 40.

23     Carlos Rebolledo, LUIS BUNUEL, Éd. Universitaires, Paris, 1964, p.170.

24     Ibidem, p. 177.

25     Ove Brusendorff & Poul Malmkjær, EROTIK I FILMEN, Pigalle Bokförlag, Stockholm, 1966.

26     Ado Kyrou, luis bunuel, p. 12.

27     Artur Lundkvist, Buñuel, Pan/Norstedts, Stockholm, 1967.

28     Poul Malmkjær, Buñuel, statements og anti-statements, Det Danske Filmmuseum, København, 1968.

29     Raymond Durgnat, LUIS BUNUEL, Studio Vista, London, 1967, p. 10.

30     Ibidem, pp. 15 - 21.

31     In Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr 191,juin 1967, p. 70.

32     Martin Drouzy, KÆTTEREN BUÑUEL, FILM/RHODOS, København, 1970, p.18, (my own translation).

33     Freddy Buache,LUIS BUÑUEL, L'Age d'Homme, Lausanne, 1975.

34     Cristina Bragaglia,La realtà dell'imagine in Luis Buñuel, Patron, Bologna, 1975.

35     Manuel Alcalá, BUÑUEL (cine e ideologia), CUADERNOS PARA EL DIALOGO, Madrid, 1973, p. 116.

36     Fernando Cesarman, El Ojo de Buñuel, Anagrama, Barcelona, 1976.

37           "              "       , L'OEIL DE BUÑUEL, Éditions du Dauphin, Paris, 1982, pp. 29 - 30.

38     Maurice Drouzy, LUIS BUNUEL ARCHITECTE DU REVE, Lherminier, Paris, 1978, pp. 9 - 10.

39     LUIS BUÑUEL, OBRA LITERARIA, org. by Agustin Sànchez Vidal, Ed. Heraldo de Aragón, Zaragoza, 1982.

40     See chap. III, n. 1.

41     Luis Buñuel, catalogue ed. by Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisboa, 1982.

42     Raymond Lefèvre, LUIS BUÑUEL, Edilig, Paris, 1984.

43     Gwynne Edwards, The Discreet Art of LUIS BUÑUEL, Marion Boyars, London, 1982.

44     Marcel Oms, don luis buñuel, Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1985.

45     See chap. III, n. 4.

46     José de la Colina & Tomás Perez Turrent, Prohibido Asomarse al Interior, Planeta, Mexico D. C., 1986.

47     Jean-Claude Carrière, The Buñuel Mystery, in Show, April 1970, reproduced in The World of Luis Buñuel, ed. Joan Mellen, p. 90.



1       This epithet is in French since I wanted to use the word "souvenir" (see chap. IV, n. 13) and the strong object-related connotations that emanate from the same word in English would have perverted the spirit of the epithet. 

2       Aranda, biografia crítica,(ed. 1975), p. 27, and M. Alcalá, op. cit., p. 27.

3       L. Buñuel, op. cit., pp. 35, 39.

4       Ibidem, p. 214.

5          "      , pp. 38, 66.

6          "      , p. 39.

7          "      , p. 63.

8       Statements collected by J. F. Aranda from the unedited Buñuel autobiography written in English for the Museum of Modern Art, N. Y. in 1938 and quoted by Aranda, op. cit. p. 33.

9       Ibidem, p. 32.

10     Citation from Buñuel's autobiography (Mus. of Mod. Art) in Francisco Aranda, Luis Buñuel: A Critical Biography,  p. 22.

 11    In ENTRETIEN AVEC LUIS BUNUEL et Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, par André Bazin, Cahiers du Cinéma, nr.36,Juin 1954, p.8.

12     See L. Buñuel, op. cit., p. 268.

13     See Jean-Henri Fabre, Souvenirs Entomologiques, Delagrave, Paris, Vol. 1 - 10, 1874-1907.

14     Jean-Henri Fabre, Les merveilles de l'instinct chez les insectes,  Delagrave, Paris, 1920.

15     L. Buñuel, op. cit. p. 11.

16     Charles Darwin,The Origin of Species, Avenel Books, N.Y.,1979, p. 236.

17     L. Buñuel, op. cit. p. 279.

18     In the emotional sense that psychology gives to the word forgetting. See R. Atkinson & E. Hilgard, Introduction To Psychology, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc., New York, 1983, pp. 236-238.

19     L. Buñuel op. cit., p. 12.

20     Ibidem, p.  23.

21        "      , pp. 62-63.

22        "      , p. 83.

23       "      , p. 111.

24        "      , p. 226.

25        "      , p. 133.

26        "      , p. 137.

27     Salvador Dali, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, Vision Press, London, 1948, pp. 282, 283, 338, 339.

28     J. Francisco Aranda, Luis Buñuel, biogafia critica, p. 385-386.

29     Francisco Aranda, Luis Buñuel: A Critical Biography , p. 273-274.

30     Ibidem, p. 273.

31     Marquis de Sade, Les 120 journées de Sodome , Union Générale D'Éditions, Paris,1975, Tome 1, p. 96.

32     The Oxford Companion to the Theatre , edited by Phyllis Hartnoll, Oxford University Press, London, 1967, 3.ed., p. 654.

33     Gil Vicente, Auto da Alma, in OBRAS COMPLETAS  Vol II, Editora Sá da Costa, Lisboa, 1974, pp. 1 - 37.

34     Virginia Higginbotham, Luis Buñuel, Twayne Pub., Boston, 1979, p.194.

35     Friedrich Nietzche, Om moralens härstamning, Rabén&Sjögren, Stockholm, 1965, p. 43.

36     In Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr 36, p. 11.

37     Luis Buñuel, Mon dernier soupir, p. 150.

38     Martin Drouzy, KÆTTEREN BUÑUEL, p. 174.

39     HERESIES OF THE HIGH MIDDLE AGES , selected and translated by Walter L. Wakefield & Austin P. Evans, Columbia University Press,

          New York, 1969, p. 2.

40     Ibidem, p. 2.



1       Raymond Lefèvre, op. cit., provides a rather complete list of plot summaries which is recommendable for those who may be less acquainted with the Buñuelian stories.

2       About this Swedish problem, see the paper Filmtiteln, written by S. Holm & K. Kappelin, Litteraturvet. Inst.,Lund, VT 1981, p. 11-13.

3       Complete filmographies are provided in English by Virginia Higginbotham, op. cit., in French by Raymond Lefévre, op. cit., in Spanish by A. Sanchez Vidal, op. cit. and in Portuguese (the most complete one) by the Portuguese Cinematheque's catalogue, op. cit..

4       Annie Goldmann in Revue de l'Institut de Sociologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Nr 3, 1969, pp. 463 - 473.

5       Annie Goldmann in Australian Journal of Screen Theory  Vol 1: 4, Kensington, 1976 pp. 67 - 78.

6       This expression, as we have already seen, was recently used by José de la Colina & Tomás Pérez Turrent to entitle their interview "fleuve" with Luis Buñuel, op. cit.

7       Agustin Sanchez Vidal, Luis Buñuel, obra cinematográfica, p. 53.

8       Ibidem, p. 56.

9       L. Buñuel, Mon dernier soupir , p. 122.

10     I use here my own translation of the Spanish titles indicated by A. Sanchez Vidal, op. cit. p. 71., since the original expressions were probably in French, which I could not verify.

11     Ibidem, p. 79.

12          "    , P. 71.

13     As Roy Armes does in his Patterns of Realism, Tantivity Press, London, 1971, pp. 20 - 21.

14     Luis Buñuel , Cinemateca Portuguesa, op. cit. p. 75.

15     André Bazin, QU'EST-CE QUE LE CINÉMA?  Vol. III, p. 23.

16     Virginia Higginbotham, op. cit. pp. 77 - 82.

17     José de la Colina & Tomás Perez Turrent, op. cit. p. 56.

18     Inscription on the front page of the magazine, see next note.

19     Michel Leiris, GLOSSAIRE: J'Y SERRE MES GLOSES  in LA RÉVOLUTION SURRÉALISTE, Nr 3, Paris, 1925, p. 6.

20     In interview with J. Cobos and G. S. de Erice, Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr191, juin 1967 p. 70.

21     See Pier Paolo Pasolini, EMPIRISMO ERETICO, Garzanti Editore, Milano, 1972.

22     Roy Armes, French Cinema, Oxford University Press, New York, 1985, p. 155.

23     Ibidem, p. 259.

24     A. Sanchez Vidal, op. cit. p. 77.

25     See chap. III, n. 24.

26     Roland Barthes, MYTHOLOGIES, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, 1957, p. 70.

27     See Maurice Drouzy, LUIS BUNUEL ARCHITECTE DU REVE .

28     See chap. II, n. 7.

29     In Cahiers du Cinéma , Nr 191, op. cit. p. 14.

30     See chap. III, n. 19.

31     See chap. V, n. 33.

32     See chap. II, N. 4.

33     As they are defined in V. Propp, op. cit., pp. 24 - 59.

34     Annie Goldmann, op. cit..

35    This function is missing in Propp's op. cit. and is taken from the            second edition, University of Texas Press, Austin & London, 1968,       p. 60.                                                  







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Oms, M., don luis buñuel, Les Éditions du Cerf, Paris, 1985.


Pasolini,P.,P., EMPIRISMO ERETICO, Garzanti Editore, Milano, 1972.


Propp, V., MORPHOLOGY OF THE FOLKTALE, International Journal of                              American Linguistics, Vol. 24  Nr 4, Indiana Univessity Research                 Center in Anthropology, Folklore, and Linguistics, Bloomington,                     October 1958.                                                       

                Second ed. University of Texas Press, Austin & London, 1968.


Rebolledo, C. & Grange, F., LUIS BUNUEL, Éd. Universitaires, Paris, 1964.


Robinson, D., World Cinema, Eyre Methuen, London, 1981.


Sade, M. de, Les 120 journées de Sodome , Union Gén. D'Éd., Paris,1975.


Sadoul, G., Histoire du Cinéma Mondial, Flammarion, Paris, 1979.


Sánchez Vidal, A., Luis Buñuel: obra cinematografica, Ed. J. C., Madrid, 1984.


Sontag, S., On Photography , Penguin Books, New York,…,1979.


Vicente, G., Auto da Alma, in OBRAS COMPLETAS  Vol II, Editora Sá da                             Costa, Lisboa, 1974.


Wright, W., SIXGUNS & SOCIETY,  University of California Press, L. A., 1975.


Zorilla, J., Don  Juan Tenorio, Editorial Huemul S. A., Buenos Aires, 1967.



HERESIES OF THE HIGH MIDDLE AGES , selected and translated by Walter L. Wakefield & Austin P. Evans, Columbia                                                     University Press, New York, 1969.


Luis Buñuel, A Symposium, Ed. by Margaret A. Rees, T. A. S. C., Leeds, 1982.


Luis Buñuel, Catálogo ed. por Cinemateca Portuguesa, Lisboa, 1982.


Luis Buñuel, Eine Dokumentation, ausgewählt und zusammengestellt von                                                       Alice Goetz & Hemut W. Banz, Verband der                                                      Deutschen Filmclubs, Bad Ems, 1965.


Luis Buñuel,  études cinématographiques, vol. 1 - 2 ed. by Michel Estève,                            Paris, 1962 - 1963.


Movies and Methods, Vol II, Ed. by Bill Nichols, Univ. Cal. Pr., Berkeley,1985.


PHOTOGRAPHERS ON PHOTOGRAPHY , ed. by Nathan Lyons, Prentice-Hall,   New Jersey, 1966.


The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, Ed. by Phyllis Hartnoll, Oxford Univ.

  Press, London, 1967.


THE SHADOW AND ITS SHADOW, Ed. by Paul Hammond, B. F. I., London, 1978.



Aranda, J. F., La passion selon Buñuel, Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr 93, 1959.


Arconada, C., Luis Buñuel y las Hurdes, Nuestro Cinema, Nr 2, 1935.


Arout, G., En travaillant avec Luis Buñuel, Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr 63, 1956.


  Bazin, A. & Doniol-Valcroze, J., Entretien avec Luis Buñuel, Cahiers du                                                               Cinéma, Nr 36, 1954.


Calvino, I., Gli amori difficili dei romanzi con i film, Cinema Nuovo, Nr 43,                      1954.


Carriére, J.-C., Autour du Scénario - Réflexions d'un Scénariste, Revue de                               L'Université de Bruxelles, Nr 1-2, 1986.


Cobos, J. & Erice, G. S., Entretien avec Luis Buñuel, Cahiers du Cinéma,                                                Nr 191, 1967.


Demeure, J., Luis Buñuel poète de la cruauté, Positif, Nr 10, 1954.


Goldmann, A. Les Déserts de la Foi, Revue de l'Institut de Sociologie,                                  Université Libre de Bruxelles, Nr 3, 1969.


Structures of Absence in the Films of Godard, Buñuel and                               Pasolini, Australian Journal of Screen Theory  Vol 1: 4,                                  Kensington, 1976.


Kyrou, A., La grande tendresse de Luis Buñuel, Positif, Nr 10, 1954.


Leiris, M., GLOSSAIRE: J'Y SERRE MES GLOSES , LA RÉVOLUTION                                        SURRÉALISTE, Nr 3, Paris, 1925.


Maddison, J., Los Olvidados, Sight and Sound, Nr 4, 1952.


Miller, H., Divine Orgie, The New Review, Putnam, Paris, 1931.


Paz, O., NAZARIN, FILM CULTURE, Nr 21, 1960.


Riera, E.,G.,The Eternal Rebellion of Luis Buñuel, FILM CULTURE, Nr 21,1960.


Roblés, E., A Mexico avec Buñuel, Cahiers du Cinéma, Nr 56, 1956.


Sadoul, G., Cruauté, tendresse, pitié, Les Lettres Françaises, 22/11/1951.

                 Hommage a Buñuel, Les Lettres Françaises, 17/5/1956.


Non edited paper,

Holm, S. & Kappelin, K., Filmtiteln, Litteraturvet. Inst.,Lund, VT 1981.



INDEX TO NAMES                                      


*(the indication of the page numbers does not correspond to the actual on-line pages)


Agel, Henri,  18,                                                 Durgel, Rosa, 36

Alcalá, Manuel,  25, 29, 87,                                Durgnat, Raymond,  23, 64, 87

Anderson, Lindsay, 18                                        Eco, Umberto,  8, 25, 28, 85

Alonso, Ernesto,  59                                          Edwards, Gwynne,  27, 87

Aranda, J. Francisco,  5, 15, 17, 18, 24, 29          Eisenstein, S. 4

                                   85, 86, 87, 88                 Engels, F., 11

Arconada, César,  15, 93                                    Erice, Gonzalo de,  24, 90

Armendariz, Pedro,  59                                       Esposito, Gianni,  60

Armes, Roy,  61, 62, 90                                     Estève, Michel,  21, 86

Arout, Gabriel,  18                                              Evans, Austin,  47, 89

Atkinson, R.,  88                                                Fabre, Jean-Henri,  31, 32, 88

Audret, Pascale,  80                                          Félix, Maria,  60

Barthes, R.,  63, 90                                            Fellini, F. 5

Bazin, André, 16, 17, 31, 45, 55, 86, 88, 90         Fernández, Jaime,  60

Bergman, I.,  4, 70                                             Ford, John,  4, 5, 44

Beristain, Luis,  76                                             Franco, F.,  16, 47

Bertheau, Julien,  40, 68                                     Franju, Georges,  21

Blanquels, Rafael,  35                                        Frankeur, Paul,  60

Bodin, Richard Pierre,  14                                   Freire, Paulo,  46

Bolivar, Ignacio,  30                                            Freud, Sigmund, 20

Bouquet, Carole,  60                                          Fuentes, Amelia,  69

Bragaglia, Cristina,  25, 87                                  Gala,  39

Brecht, B.,  31                                                   Garbo, Greta,  63

Breton, André,  39                                              Garcés, Delia  35

Brook, Claudio,  58, 68, 77                                 Gauter, Claude,  21, 67, 86

Brusendorff, Ove,  23, 23, 86                               Geret, Georges,  77

Buache, Freddy,  18, 19, 20, 25,70, 81, 86,          Girardon, Michèle,  68

                             87                                        Godard, J. L.,  4, 5, 50, 70

Calvino, Italo,  18                                               Goldmann, Annie,  50, 89, 90

Calvo, José,  67                                                 Grange, Frédéric,  22

Carrière, Jean-Claude,  4, 28, 67, 87                    Griffith, D. W.,  4

Castaneda, Luis,  77                                          Guilmain, Ofelia,  36

Centeno, Augusto,  36                                        Hartnoll, Phyllis,  89

Centeno, Juan,  36, 37                                       Higginbotham, Virginia,  44, 55, 89, 90

Cerval, Claude,  66                                             Hilgard, E.,  88

Cesarman, Fernando,  26, 87                              Hitchcock, A.,  4, 5, 44

Chabrol, Claude,  49                                           Holm, S., 89

Chiappe, J.,  47                                                 Hughes, Robert,  18

Cobo, Roberto,  60                                             Inclán, Miguel,  76

Cobos, Juan,  24, 90                                          Jetter, Claude,  69

Colina, José de la,  28, 87, 89, 90                       Kappelin, K.,  89

Córdova, Arturo de,  35, 59                                 Kyrou, Ado, 16, 18, 20, 23, 86

Dali, Salvador,   13, 14, 15, 31, 38, 39, 88            Lang, Fritz,  5

Darwin, C.,  30, 32, 33, 88                                  Lefèvre, Raymond,  27, 87, 89

Deneuve, Catherine,  43, 59, 60, 63                     Leiris, Michel,  56, 90

De Sica, Vittorio,  55                                          Lopez, Marga,  68           

Doniol-Valcroze, Jacques,  16, 17, 86, 88            Lorca, F. Garcia,  31, 51, 52

Drouzy, Martin,  25, 26, 27, 46, 64, 84                 Losey, J. 5

                             87, 89, 90                             Lovell, Allan,  21, 23, 86

Loya, Xavier,  36                                                Riera, Emilio G.,  19, 20

Lozano, Margarita,  77                                        Robinson, David,  40

Lundkvist, Artur, 23                                            Roblès, Emmanuel,  18

Lyons, Nathan,  85                                             Rochefort, Jean,  80

Lys, Lya,  23, 60, 69                                          Rohmer, Eric,  18

Macedo, Rita,  68                                              Sade, M. de,  39, 40, 66, 88

Maddison, John,  16                                           Sadoul, Georges,  16, 18

Maistre, François,  66                                        Salem, Lionel,  63, 67

Malmkjær, Poul,  23, 86                                     Sanchez Vidal, Agustin,  27, 52, 85, 87, 89,    Marchal, Georges,  59, 60                                                                                                               90

Mareuil, Simone,  73                                          Signoret, Simone,  68

Márquez, Esteban,  61                                       Simon, Christinne,  40

Marroquin, Francisco, 15, 86                               Soler, Fernando,  59, 60

Marx, K.,  30                                                     Sontag, Susan,  10, 85

Mejía, Alfonso,  60                                             Sorel, Jean,  76

Mekas, Jonas,  20                                             Soto, Fernando,  61

Mellen, Joan,  28, 86                                          Stieglitz, Alfred,  10

Miller, Henry,  14, 15, 86                                    Terzieff, Laurent,  60

Miratvilles, Xaume,  53                                        Trebouta, Jacques,  18

Mistral, Jorge,  59                                              Truffaut, François,  18

Modot, Gaston,  22, 43, 60                                 Verley, Bernard,  67

Molina, Angela,  60                                            Vicente, Gil,  44, 89

Moreau, Célestine,  59                                       Vigo, Jean,  21

Moussinac, Léon,  14                                         Villa, Moreno,  31

Muñoz, Alfonso,  59                                           Vukotic, Milena,  68

Navarro, Carlos,  61                                            Wakefield, Walter,  47

Navás, Longino,  29                                            Welles, O.,  5

Nero, Franco,  78                                               Wright, Will,  85

Nietzsche, F.,  44, 89                                         Zavattini, C.,  11

O'Herlihy, Dan,  60                                             Zorilla, José,  84

Oms, Marcel,  28, 87

Ophuls, Max,  61

Pasolini, P. P.,  5, 50, 57, 90

Paz, Octavio,  18, 19

Perez Turrent, Tomás,  28, 87, 89, 90

Philipe, Gérard,  56, 58, 60

Piazza, François,  15, 20

Piccoli, Michel,  40, 58, 63, 77

Piéral,  62

Pilon, Daniel,  69

Pinal, Silvia,  58, 59

Plato,  45

Prado, Lilia,  61

Propp, Vladimir,  8, 9, 74, 75, 76, 85, 90

Quintana, Rosita,  59

Rabal, Francisco,  58, 59, 63

Rambal, Enrique,  43

Ramírez, Mario,  76

Rebolledo, Carlos,  22, 43, 58, 62, 86

Rey, Fernando,  63, 69, 77, 78

Richardson, Tony,  18