Él Screen 94 of 8 reviews

Él

1953

Él Poster
  • El is constantly lurching between black comedy and genuine terror in the face of physical and mental abuse, pivoting back and forth with great precision and nearly zero turnaround time. The precision in going there and back again, making black comedy out of a subject that's really not one bit funny, is exhilarating and evidently acute enough that the Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends showing the film to students.

  • The relation to Hitchcock has been amply noted, the one to Ray’s Bigger Than Life less so. The knitting needle in the keyhole, the pistol in the bathrobe pocket, rope and thread and razor wrapped in cotton: the full panoply of obsession. ("A deeply personal definition of love," proclaims de Córdova.)

  • Incorporating expressionistic devices of reflecting character interiority through architecture and mise-en-scène, Buñuel uses integrally tactile and voluptuous Gaudi-like structures and ornate, baroque ornamentation in Don Francisco's secluded (and self-imprisoning) estate that paradoxically reveal the suppressed eroticism, passion, and perversion that lay beneath the façade of genteel and pious respectability.

  • Released at the pinnacle of his prolific Mexican period, Él (This Strange Passion) remains one of Luis Buñuel’s crowning achievements. “Ironically, there’s absolutely nothing Mexican about Él; it’s simply the portrait of a paranoiac, who, like a poet, is born, not made,” says the director in his autobiography. Though set in Mexico and ripe with authentic details from daily life, Él is less a portrait of machismo gone awry than it is a brutal and absurd glimpse at one man’s runaway paranoia.

  • It's huge fun as Buñuel mischievously subverts a heavy-breathing Mexican melodrama by playing out its passions to absurd lengths.

  • A Christian moral might be that the sincere Christian will destroy himself if he doesn't cut radically free from the self-righteousness of his society and follow the example of Christ. And what happens then? Buñuel offers an answer, many years laer, in Nazarin. The tone of El is flat and arid, the visuals scarcely betraying the discrepancies of lies and truth, logic and insanity, that exist insidiously in the dialogue, in nuances of expression and faintly indicated moods.

  • EL (sometimes known as THIS STRANGE PASSION) functions as a Rosetta stone of [Buñuel's] favorite themes: Catholicism, crazy love, women's feet—all three of which he manages to combine in the very first scene.

  • In some ways it's a parody of machismo, full of anticlerical thrusts, but like many other Bunuel features of this period, the irreverence... tends to be almost parenthetical rather than the main focus. Bunuel remained true to his surrealist origins throughout his Mexican period, but the full command of his earliest and latest films, as well as such intermediate masterpieces as Los olvidados and The Exterminating Angel, resulted in stronger fare than this.

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