Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Nazario, a Christian priest, lives in a squalid Mexican neighborhood, surrounded by vagrants, petty criminals and street walkers. He has an upstairs room, its window serving as a perpetually open entrance. He carelessly allows his possessions, the coins and pots and pans to be filched. He doesn't bother much whether he gets to eat or not. He continues this quixotically pious existence till he finds himself harboring a woman, who, in a quarrel resulting from a theft of buttons, has killed another woman, .
Next we find him on the run through the countryside in "civilian" garb. He soon lands himself in another soup where the unsought and unwanted reputation of a miracle worker is dumped on him. Two women devotees now cling to him in his misadventures, till the police catch up to him, and he is ridiculed, insulted and beaten by his fellow prisoners. He has arrived at a stage when he can't take more of human nastiness. He finds it difficult to carry out the Christian teaching of forgiveness. As Nazario trudges along a dusty road, disillusioned and angry, a old woman offers him a pineapple. At first he refuses, too wounded to accept kindness. On second thought, he beckons to her to accept the offering,internally illuminated by her goodness. A flower blooms in the desert.
I don't know what Bunuel is trying to say except that the times call for a tougher brand of altruism than mechanically offering the other cheek. That's just tinkering with the vast seas of suffering all around. As film, it has neither the outrageous surrealism of his silent movies like Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or nor the dark insights of The Exterminating Angel and Belle de Jour. The sounds and smells of a Mexican inner city streetside are poetically evoked in the early parts of the movie, and may be a second view would reveal more visual treats in the details.