Friday, January 15, 2010

SIMON OF THE DESERT (1965)

SIMON OF THE DESERT is the last of Bunuel's so called 20 "Mexican films" and it's very loosely based of life of Simeon Stylites, who I think must have been a complete fucking nut cause he stood on top of a pillar for 39 years to impress God...bet he felt stupid when he died and nothing happened. Anyway so in Bunuel's film we're introduced to Simon after he's been on the pillar for 6 years. He's developed quite a reputation, so naturally people come to him begging for miracles. One of the beggars is a man who has no hands. He pleads for mercy, Simon prays and *presto* the dude has hands which he promptly uses to slap his daughter.

Once alone and back to his meditation, Satan (the great Silvia Pinal) begins appearing in different forms (schoolgirl, Jesus, possessed monk, half-naked chick driving a coffin!!!) and tries to trick Simon into coming down. I won't tell you if he does or not, you'll just have to see for yourself.

The runtime for the movie is only 45 minutes, but it's wonderful. I've always heard that the reason for shortness was because they simply ran out of money, but in a video interview with star Silvia Pinal in the extras she mentions that Bunuel wanted to have the story told in three connecting short films by three directors (the two others being Federico Fellini and Jules Dassin!), but it all fell through because of differences over casting. Now I'm not sure how much I believe that story, but it is interesting to fantasize about. Can you imagine how wonderful that would have been?!

If the film itself wasn't enough of a reason to buy this DVD, there's also a great 56 minute documentary covering Bunuel's creative period in Mexico (1946- 1965) - even after he returned to making films in Europe he still lived in Mexico until his death in 1983. There were many jaw-droppingly awesome moments, but the two that really shocked me was the photographs Bunuel took while researching for LOS OLVIDADOS. Also a video interview with Bunuel's widow where she said that Luis never talked to her about his movies! What the Hell?! That's completely insane!

In conclusion, yea it's short, but 1) it's Bunuel, so you have to buy it 2) it's a great film and 3) it's Criterion so until they eventually put out the Blu-Ray this is the best picture you're going to find of this minor masterpiece. Buy it.