Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That Obscure Object of Desire

The last film directed by Luis Bunuel, "That Obscure Object of Desire", was released in 1977, the same year as David Lynch's first film, "Eraserhead". There can't be any doubt that Bunuel's picture had a major influence on the ideas of Lynch.

TOOD is the story of Mathieu, played by Bunuel regular Fernando Rey, an affluent widower, and his tortured relationship with a younger girl, as related by him during a Canterbury Tales-like train trip across Spain and France. He explains to the odd assortment of travellers sharing his compartment why he poured a bucket of water over the girl's head as she attempted to join him on the train. We see their initial meeting after she has been hired as his new chambermaid and their subsequent difficulties. The most notable aspect of this film is that the role of the girl, Conchita, is played by two different actresses with dissimilar appearances and temperaments, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina. The two exchange places in adjacent scenes and even in the same scene, but Mateo doesn't seem to notice the difference. Set in the late 1960's, there is a backdrop of urban terrorism running through the movie, car bombs and armed robberies are frequent occurrences. The contrast between the lavish surroundings and lifestyle of the wealthy businessman Mathieu and the impoverished squalor of Conchita is tempered by curious incidents such as a mouse being caught in a trap in Mathieu's study and a fly landing in his water glass in an exclusive restaurant. A burlap bag carried by Mathieu at occasional moments is never explained.

The focus of the film is Mathieu's lustful obsession for Conchita, which she foils at every turn. But there is much more to the story than that. TOOD is an enjoyable and engrossing romp with a cinematic master. Professional bullriding score: 93

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