10 Essential Films by the Spanish Director Luis Buñuel
To celebrate the filmmaker Luis Buñuel, you can find a selection of 10 of the director's essential works. Check the list.
Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel was born in 1900 and became a Mexican citizen in 1949, after being exiled during the Spanish Civil War. With a career developed mostly in Mexico and France, the Aragonese is one of the great geniuses of the seventh art. His cinema, as imitated as it is inimitable, as inspiring as it is unique, has given rise to all kinds of theories, interpretations, readings, and classifications.
Between 1929 and 1977 Luis Buñuel directed a total of thirty-two films. In 1930 he shot Menjant garotes ("Eating hedgehogs"), a silent film of only four minutes, starring the Dalí family. He was nominated more than 45 times for the most important awards of the seventh art, such as the Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Cannes International Film Festival, Ariel, Venice International Film Festival, and the Berlin International Film Festival.
Luis Buñuel made several incursions into various fields (theater, literature, and poetry) before and after dedicating himself to the world of cinema, although his most relevant contribution was the surrealist poems and prose written between 1922 and 1929 during his stay at the Student Residence in Madrid. His texts from this period can be considered among the most interesting contributions, along with those of Juan Larrea (1895-1980), to the introduction of surrealism as a key component of the Generation of '27.
Los olvidados (The Forgotten Ones)
It is a 1950 Mexican film shot at Tepeyac Studios and located in Mexico City. Luis Buñuel won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival and has been named a UNESCO Memory of the World. Los olvidados tells a tragic and realistic story about the lives of children in a shantytown in Mexico City. This film is the most relevant work since Buñuel began his Mexican period and is in the line of Italian neorealism, to which the director brings his surrealist touch.
Mexico | 1950 | 88 min
A group of juvenile delinquents lives a violent and criminal existence in the suburbs of Mexico City. One of them, young Pedro, will gradually see his character and morals corrupted by the influence of the others.
El perro andaluz (The Andalusian Dog)
It is a French-Spanish silent short film written, produced, directed, and performed by Luis Buñuel in 1929 with the collaboration in the script of Salvador Dalí. It is considered the most significant film in surrealist cinema. Transgressing the canonical narrative schemes, the film aims to provoke a moral impact on the viewer through the aggressiveness of the image. It constantly refers to delirium and dreams, both in the images produced and in the use of non-linear time in the sequences.
France | 1929 | 21 min
On a clear night, a man cuts out a young woman's eye as a cloud passes in front of the moon. Eight years later, a cyclist has an accident in the street. The same young woman comes to his aid and kisses him. In a room, the cyclist harasses the young woman.
It is a 1961 Spanish-Mexican film starring Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, and Fernando Rey in the leading roles; it is an unsurpassable satire on the human condition. It is based on the novel Halma, by Benito Pérez Galdós, and received the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Palme d'Or.
Mexico | 1961 | 90 min
Viridiana, before professing as a nun, decides to visit her uncle and guardian Don Jaime to say goodbye to him. This man, widowed and lonely for many years, finds in the face of the novice the living portrait of his deceased wife.
El ángel extermiandor (The Extermianding Angel)
It is a surrealist film by Luis Buñuel produced in Mexico by Gustavo Alatriste and starring Silvia Pinal, Enrique Rambal and Claudio Brook. The film marked the beginning of the last part of Buñuel's filmography, which focuses on the wealthiest members of society.
Mexico | 1962 | 93 min
After a dinner party at the Nóbile's mansion, the guests discover that, for inexplicable reasons, they cannot leave the place. As the situation continues for several days, politeness gives way to the most primitive and brutal survival instinct. A parable about the decomposition of a social class closed in on itself.
It is a 1970 film based on the novel of the same name by Benito Pérez Galdós. It was nominated for the Oscar Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Although it did not win, it has been awarded prizes at the Fotogramas de Plata Awards, the Círculo de Escritores Cinematográficos Medals, the San Jorge Awards, and the ACE Awards, among others.
France | 1970 | 99 min
Don Lope has taken Tristana into his home to fulfill a promise made to her parents. But the young girl is very beautiful and becomes the obsession of the old man, who by dint of time and patience obtains her favors. However, when she meets a young painter who falls in love with her, she decides to radically change the course of her life.
El discreto encanto de la burguesía (The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie)
It is a French film that, as in many of the feature films he made in the course of his life, some scenes with characteristics of surrealism can be observed. It won the Oscar in 1972 in the category of Best Foreign Film, as well as in different categories of festivities such as the BAFTA Awards and the National Board of Review.
France | 1972 | 102 min
Don Rafael Costa, ambassador of Miranda, and the Thévenot couple are invited to dine at the Sénechal couple's house, but because of a misunderstanding, they have to go to a restaurant. When they arrive, they cannot dine because the owner of the place has died. From that moment on, the meetings of this select group of the bourgeois will always be interrupted by the strangest circumstances, some real and others the fruit of their imagination.
Las Hurdes, Tierra sin Pan (The Hurdes, Land Without Bread)
It is a Spanish documentary from 1933, and although it was originally silent, in 1935 it obtained money from the Spanish embassy in Paris to sound it. It is a reference work in documentary cinema since the prestigious Mannheim Film Festival in 1964 and is included among the twelve best documentaries in history.
Spain | 1933 | 33 min
A documentary that portrays Las Hurdes (Cáceres), one of the poorest and least developed regions of Spain in 1932. The insalubrity, misery, and lack of opportunities provoke the emigration of young people and the loneliness of those who remain in this desolate region of Extremadura.
Bella de dia (Beautiful by day)
It is a 1967 French film based on the novel of the same name by French-Argentine Joseph Kessel. "Belle de nuit" in French is a euphemistic expression to refer to a prostitute in the politically correct language. Also, "belle de jour" is the name of a plant, whose flowers only open in the daytime: Kessel plays with the meanings of these words. Luis Buñuel agreed to bring it to the big screen on the condition that he was given complete freedom to adapt, and it won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1967.
France | 1967 | 100 min
Sévérine, a young woman married to an attractive surgeon discovers the existence of daytime prostitution. Driven by curiosity, she enters Anaïs's brothel and ends up getting used to leading a double life. The appearance of Marcel, a delinquent who falls in love with her, will complicate the protagonist's situation.
It is a Mexican film from 1953, the screenplay was written based on the novel of the same name by Canarian writer Mercedes Pinto. The film won the International Federation of Film Archives Award, and despite being a failure on its release, it is now considered one of the director's masterpieces.
Mexico | 1953 | 92 min
An aristocrat becomes increasingly paranoid and delusional after marrying a beautiful woman.
Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert)
This is a Mexican medium-length film from 1965, based on a story by the director himself. It is a film with a mixture of black and corrosive humor and an ironic look at religions. It won the Special Jury Prize, the Silver Lion, and the FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Mexico | 1965 | 43 min
Simon the Stylite has been in penance standing on a new eight-meter column for more than six years. A mutilated man, a dwarf, his goats, and a young monk surround him. A rich devotee presents him with a better column and Simon performs the miracle of restoring the maimed man's hands. For several days, Simon continues in penance while the devil appears to him trying to tempt him, always incarnated in a beautiful woman.