Wednesday, October 20, 2010
A mordant satire about humanity, and comedy of the kind which leaves you depressed and disgusted. Shot on a dark surrealist palette it depicts the seamy lumpen layers of society--a ragged crowd of beggars: maimed, leprous, blind, pregnant. Mayhem breaks as the restraints are withdrawn, and the goodies of life spread out before them, asking to be looted.
A bacchanalian feast of beggars with a lavish spread and the liqueurs flowing turning into a bawdy brawl is topped by a composition mimicking Leonardo's Last Supper, which drew the opprobrium of the Vatican and the Franco government. A score of Handel's Messiah recurring through the movie is a somewhat over-obvious satire.
On another level, we find that the reactions of the better to do, are not so different beneath the veneer.
A consolation is the cinematography, but then you would have to return again to relish that. The first view is an exercise to absorb the dense and layered film which does not yield itself easily. The film is in turns provocative, titillating, disgusting and shocking.
The plot. Viridiana, a nun (Silvia Pinal), takes a few days off from her convent to see her rich uncle. The uncle is attracted to her and proposes marriage, and even schemes to take advantage of her after drugging her. When she refuses, he hangs himself. Viridiana decides to give up the cloth and instead turns part of the vast villa which she now owns into a hospice for the poor and indigent. This charity rebounds and climaxes with an assault on her by a leprosy victim, one of her chosen beneficiaries. The movie concludes as Viridiana knocks at night on the door of her cousin, presumably ready to take on life on new terms. Bunuel clearly prefers the earthiness of ordinary people with it's wart's and stinks, to clerical pretension.