WHO is he?

Provocative Spanish-born filmmaker and scenarist who directed over 30 films — most of them now hallowed works of world cinema — in a five-decade career between the 20s and the 70s. Buñuel is considered the father of cinematic Surrealism and his first work Un Chien Andalou (1929), which he made along with Salvador Dali, is a veritable rallying cry for the notorious movement. His films Viridiana (1961) and Belle du Jour (1967) won the top prizes at the Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals respectively.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

Taking off from Freud’s idea of repressed drives, the Surrealists, including Buñuel, attacked the sanitised morality of sterile, institutionalised art and instead set out to give full play to the primal forces lurking underneath quotidian life. The hypocrisy, artificiality and complacence of middle-class life and the moral corruption of religion are themes that are omnipresent in Buñuel’s body of work and are fiercely attacked through both irreverent humour and radical film grammar.

WHAT are his films about?

Style

Buñuel’s early Surrealist films are founded on the movement’s principle of disrupting the apparent normalcy of everyday life. These films broke the rational narrative logic of what it discredited as “bourgeois cinema”, supplanting with the logic of the unconscious. Though he disassociated himself from the movement later, Buñuel still maintained his iconoclastic approach to film narrative and scrupulously avoided the clichés of popular and arthouse cinema. Interruption of conventional narrative logic on an ideological basis is the most characteristic stylistic element of Buñuel’s cinema.

WHY is he of interest?

The many dimensions of Buñuel as a filmmaker — Buñuel the satirist, the documentarian, the neorealist, the chamber dramatist — continue to be a source of immense interest and inspiration for filmmakers and fans alike. As important is Buñuel the entertainer, whose movies are instant crowd-pleasers that nonetheless never compromise their political commitment or formal rigour. In that sense, these films are genuinely subversive works that critique the cultural system they are embedded in from within.

WHERE to discover him?

The Exterminating Angel (1962) works off a patently absurd premise: a group of dinner invitees finds itself unable to exit the house even when the door is wide open. Buñuel’s deliciously implausible, completely hilarious film is a virulent attack on the synthetic social conventions of the middle-class and demonstrates the essential irrationality of all human action.

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