Sunday, February 23, 2020


Over the years, there are a lot of films that have slipped under this blog's radar, either because I saw them before I started the blog, or because I saw them during breaks from writing the blog. In the case of Luis Buñuel, one of my first favorite directors, although he has many films on the 1,000 Greatest Films list, very few of them have received an entry on this blog. There were also a few that I had never seen, so I thought I would take this chance to start a new "Directors Series" feature, in which I will review a series of films by one director and also make a list of the films by that director that I have previously seen, with links to past blog posts where available.

That Obscure Object of Desire

1977, TSPDT Rank #574

Image result for luis bunuel that obscure object of desire

Quest Status: #687 / 1000

The theme of old men obsessed with young women is a common theme in Luis Buñuel's films. Often, in films like El or Tristana, there was an element of social critique embedded within the story. But That Obscure Object of Desire is all the more interesting because it's an old man's film, Buñuel's last. As an old man, in this film Buñuel takes aim at his main character's naivety. He lusts after a beautiful young woman who willingly gives herself to him, proclaiming that she loves him, although she refuses to give him everything - leaving his desires perpetually unfilled. Did Buñuel feel sorry for this old man, played with an abundance of self-pity by Fernando Rey? It's hard to say. Maybe on some level, he did. But the old man's obsession with terrorist attacks also resonates with his unrequited relationship, in typical Buñuelian style. His inability to comprehend the constant terrorism around him is similar to his inability to understand his mistress' inaccessibility. She might really be the death of him, but why? Is her careless manipulation of him on the same level as the terrorists who seem so eager to undermine society for no detectable reason? As usual, even in his final film, Luis Buñuel was not about to give viewers any easy answers.

Los Olvidados

1950, TSPDT Rank #130

Image result for luis bunuel los olvidados

Quest Status: #688 / 1000

Luis Buñuel is known first and foremost as a surrealist, mainly due to the reputation of his first film, Un Chien Andalou, with social critiques of the upper middle class also an important trademark of his work. Social realism is usually not a genre that I associated with Buñuel. However, Los Olvidados is a social realist film, which has a lot in common with the Italian neorealist films of the same era. It's not without some of Buñuel's stylistic trademarks, including a haunting surrealist dream sequence and a hard-hitting approach to portraying events of poverty and cruelty which reveals his trademark cynicism. That being said, one key difference is the lack of irony here. This is not the over-the-top faux-documentary satire of Las Hurdes. It's a surprisingly sincere film designed to deliver a message about poverty's dehumanizing effects on children straight to the gut. But while it succeeds at this goal, I couldn't help but feel that Buñuel was a bit out of his territory here. The storytelling isn't as sharp as other neorealist films of the era, with an episodic structure sometimes lacking in variation. It's a shocking and sobering film, but didn't feel quite as focused as some of Buñuel's other films.

--- 312 films remaining --- 


Previously seen by Luis Buñuel:

-Viridiana (1961)
-L'âge d'or (1930)
-Un Chien Andalou (1928)
-The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
-Land Without Bread (1932)
-The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

「un chien andalou」の画像検索結果

August 2010
-El (1951) review

Image result for luis bunuel el

-Simon of the Desert (1964) review

Image result for luis bunuel simon of the desert

July 2011
-Belle de Jour (1967) [no entry]

September 2011
-The Exterminating Angel (1961) [no entry]

March 2015
-Tristana (1970) review
 Image result for luis bunuel tristana 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Chelsea Girls (Andy Warhol, 1966)

Quest Status: 686 /1000

TSPDT Rank #162

Seeing a 30-minute Andy Warhol film in a movie theater can be a test of one's patience, so it stands to reason that a 210-minute one would be really tough going (let's not even bring up Empire). However, watching Chelsea Girls at home gives you the option of digesting it in pieces. It's a collection of 12 episodes, about 33 minutes each, with two segments at a time shown side by side. As a fan of structuralist cinema, I was more interested in how this would have been presented in a cinema than in the content of the film itself - a fairly tedious compendium of degenerate behavior and drug-fueled rants.
Image result for chelsea girls andy warhol
Andy Warhol apparently intended that any two of the 12 episodes could be paired in whichever the combination the projectionist chose, with sound projected randomly by one of the two projectors. In theory, this would have allowed for many possible viewing experiences. The projection order described by Warhol's friend and occasional collaborator Jonas Mekas in his contemporary review of the film suggested an experience in which the initial reels were all black-and-white, with the color reels creating a "climax of terror" at the tail end of the film.

Image result for chelsea girls andy warhol
The Italian DVD release of Chelsea Girls, however, fixes the 12 episodes into a set running order, with the color and B/W reels occasionally paired together. There are many moments in which the pairings are visually interesting - the film was obviously made with an artist's eye and the pairings for the DVD were given a lot of thought. Still, as I watched the film, I frequently wished that there would have been more thought given to the structure of the film. The seemingly random dispersion of sound leads to long stretches of silence and makes episodes without any sound seem inconsequential - rather than giving them an edge of mystery or intensity as they could have if the distribution of sound and pairing of images was more premeditated.

The content also feels inconsequential from a contemporary viewpoint. Maybe in 1966, viewers would have been shocked to see real depictions of drug use, homosexuality, and general debauchery after only hearing about those things in passing or reading sanitized versions in crime novels. But today, there's very little that's shocking about Chelsea Girls, except sometimes its capacity to annoy or bore the viewer. Watching the pathetic characters on screen whine and abuse each other started to wear on me after a while. By the end, I started to wonder: Did this film come out of Andy Warhol's contempt for the underground scene on which he thrived? Or maybe it was just an attempt to show middle-class Americans a slice of the underground as a way of shocking them out of complacency. Either way, today it just seems like a relic of an almost forgotten past, a portrait of lost souls trapped in webs of their own making and (except for Nico) now lost to history.

--- 314 films remaining ---

Saturday, February 8, 2020

2020 Update: Not Dead Yet

Dear faithful readers (if there are still any left),

My "quest" to see all 1,000 films on They Shoot Pictures, Don't They's 1,000 Greatest Films list started exactly 10 years ago. When I started, I had seen less than 200 films from the list. Now I've seen 685, according to the latest update. This set me back two points from where I was at at the time of my last post (last August), which gives me a net increase of five films over the past year.

Wow. Where have I been? Not watching the 1,000 Greatest Films, that's for sure. Actually, I've been spending my time catching up with blockbusters that I missed over the past ten years and being busy with life. But enough excuses. There's no getting around the fact that the past few years have been lean years for the quest. However, it is an Olympic year. And having seen over half of the list's films during the past ten years, there's a possibility that I could still make it to the finish line in the same amount of time that it took Odysseus to get back home.

Anyway, this quest's not dead yet, but it is turning out to be quite the odyssey. Let the 2020 games begin...

The complete 1,000 Greatest Films list (created by Bill Georgaris at They Shoot Pictures, Don't They) can be viewed at this link:

A list of all films that have left the list (from last year's edition as well as all previous versions) can be seen at this link: