Tristana (Bunuel, 1970)

Very good, but not timeless like Virdiana, Discreet Charm..., or El. However, even Bunuel’s lesser films still pack a punch, displaying such a beautiful sense of story, character, and satire that I can’t help but be drawn in.

Tristana, from Buneul’s later period when he was thrashing the French and Spanish aristocracy in color, stars a who’s who of international stars: Deneuve, Fernando Rey, and Franco Nero. All are excellent in this story surrounding a young woman (Denuve) whose male and much older guardian (Rey) cannot fight off the sexual desires he feels for her.

The story becomes secondary to the multiple standoffs between Denuve and her male counterparts/environment which constantly threaten to crush her will. The biting Bunuel surrealism glimmers only in a few scenes, namely Rey’s severed head acting as a bell ringer.

But Tristana still critiques the hypocrisy within male ideologies concerning honor, sex, women’s rights/or lack thereof, and finally the aristocractic family dynamic. Denuve’s transformation from childlike glee at the thought off having a fling with her older male savior to hardbitten, frozen, women scorned has everything to do with the environment that suppresses her, but ironically enough, also with her inability to make a definitive decsion concerning her life. That is, until the last scene, which remains a perfect ending for a deformed, sexy, and mentally scarred heroine.

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