Eyes, Dismembered Hands and Buñuel, Oh My!

Absurd acts of violence, aggression, insatiable passion, searing lust, extreme poverty, tender love and blatant obsession all come under one roof--and onto one screen--at the Luis Buñuel Retrospective throughout March.

Santiago Chile Luis Bunuel
Nazarin, Photo courtesy Cine UC

Held by Cine Universidad Católica, the retrospective shows a Buñuel film every night, starting with his earliest pieces and ending with his latest. Before the first night of this event, all I knew about the Spanish-born director was from seeing the 1929 film Un Chien Andalou ("An Adalusian Dog"), which he co-wrote with Salvador Dalí. Hearing about the film beforehand did not pique my interest: It is black and white, silent, old and a short.
Santiago Chile Luis Bunuel
Los Olvidados, Photo courtesy Cine UC

However, the film is as boring as going to the fair, meeting the person of your dreams, riding a roller coaster, getting lost and having frogs rain down on you at night. Somewhere between the gruesome images of a woman's eye being cut open and a crowd of pedestrians viewing a dismembered hand on the ground, "boring" turns into "riveting," "spectacular" and "disturbing."

One of his early feature films, Los Olvidados ("The Forgotten"), had earned him the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. Set in Mexico City, the 1950 black-and-white concerns a gang of poverty-stricken children who spend their days roaming the streets and beating up old blind men. Pedro is a young boy who unwillingly gets involved in a murder when the evil ringleader of the group, El Jaibo, kills Julian and then pays Pedro not to tell anyone.

Santiago Chile Luis Bunuel
Los Olvidados, Photo courtesy Cine UC

As with many of Buñuel's films, Los Olvidados contains elements of surrealism: Picture a mother practically floating in slow motion to her child's bed in a flowing white nightgown and handing him a large chunk of raw meat. However, unlike Un Chien Andalou, there is a plot to Los Olvidados that a sane person can comprehend.

Besides the fact that Buñuel's films are intriguing, the Retrospective is a must-attend simply since the films are hard to find in most video stores--and, of course, seeing his films on a big screen happens next to never.

However, the films are in Spanish or French with Spanish subtitles; unless you have very keen eyes and fast dictionary skills, this might not be your cup of surrealism.

Cine UC: Retrospectiva de Luis Buñuel

March 9 to 31, 2009

General CP$2,500 (US$4.25), students CP$1,500 (US$2.55)

CineUC theatre de la Pontificia Universidad Católica

Alameda 390 (at Carmen)

Sunday to Friday, 4, 7 and 9:30 pm

Saturday, 7 and 9:30 pm

Metro: Universidad Catolica

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