Sunday, September 30, 2007

Susana: Buñuel at Play

by Steven Boone


a crafty eyeball

Luis Buñuel's Susana (1951) might be his worst, most entertaining film. After shooting his low-budget masterpiece, Los Olvidados in 1950, Buñuel was on rocky terms with Mexican audiences. That film represented Mexico as a nightmare in which failed social services and a hostile or indifferent economy resulted in children tossed aside like trash. Bunuel's producer, Oscar Dancigers, had agreed to let the aging surrealist make one personal film for every two commercial ones. Buñuel had delivered, with two crowd-pleasers, the musical Gran Casino (1946) and the screwball comedy The Great Madcap (1949). But the hostility toward Los Olvidados ended Danciger's and Buñuel's scheme just when it really got going. The director made Susana for another producer, Sergio Kogan. (The ironic postscript is that Los Olvidados went on to win the Palme d'Or at Cannes before its release to worldwide acclaim in 1952.)

With Susana, Buñuel honed an elegant "invisible" storytelling style that would reach perfection in Viridiana. This might account for the overacting and bombastic musical score: Maybe Buñuel was so caught up with camera choreography (on a tight 20-day schedule) that he let the performances run amok. Seen today, the bombast works as camp. It kind of fits this (literally) stormy melodrama about a female juvenile delinquent (Rosita Quintana) who single-handedly wrecks a wealthy Mexican rancher's home by seducing him, his son and his most trusted ranchero. Fernando Soler (who brings the most subtlety of the entire cast) plays the rancher as a tough-minded middle aged jefe who Susana reduces to a fool in love.

Buñuel uses the horny premise to indulge his leg fetish and favorite sacreligious themes. Buxom, hot-blooded Susana prays to the "God of prisons" to bust her out of juvie-- and He does. She escapes to don Guadalupe's ranch and proceeds to eat every man in sight. If you watch Susana without sound, it's as feverish and irrational as something like L'age d'Or. Buñuel's camera gets away with sensuality and eroticism less visually adroit directors wouldn't know how to manage.

Here's a sample of that craftiness, set to David Axelrod's song A Divine Image:


[Editor's Note: This is a belated submission to the Luis Buñuel blog-a-thon (hosted by Flickhead) that ran last week. I was planning on seeing Los Olvidados to contribute a tandem piece with Steve's delightful little appreciation, here, but life got in the way. So, if you want more on Buñuel from me, you'll have to wait. Luckily, thanks to a special gift from Senor Boone, I will be able to watch a lot of the Mexican films sooner than later. So stay tuned. -- RWK]

19 comments:

  1. That smile at the end is deadly. Can't wait to see it in full. And thanks for writing this. I always like hearing you when you're turned on by a topic.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm putting off reading your piece until the Susana DVD comes out next month. It's been over twenty years since I last saw the film and I barely remember it.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon!

    ReplyDelete
  3. filmmaker Luis Buñuel is one of the best one in the 50's because he was filmed several good movies such as "Subida al cielo"and " La fièvre monte à El Pao".
    the video is so good, I think that it is also a good movie!22dd

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's an important contribution and this production wasn't bad enough. I think we can't ignore the style on it, and I think Luis Buñuel is better than anyone in this modernity. All is about categorization and interpretations. 23jj

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah the old movies are the best, I really like, fortunately I have the tcm channel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm still learning from you, but I'm trying to achieve my goals. I certainly enjoy reading all that is posted on your blog.Keep the information coming. I loved it!
    Buy a Logo

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your strategy is very good. It will actually help any individual to make a option for the website without any uncertainty. Be grateful you for your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks you so much. This post is very help full for me a lot. Thanks for sharing nice post

    ReplyDelete
  9. There Is Obviously a lot to know about this. I suppose you made Some Great points in the Feature also.

    ReplyDelete
  10. A beautiful and high quality information.this paper is accurate to be useful. Thanks to the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for another excellent post. Where else could anybody get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's an amazing classic snap shot.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I had been trying to find getting published, and located your internet site. Great blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It’s a great site to see. That will help for improvisation of me. Will definitely marked as Bookmark.
      business broadband providers

      Delete
  14. A nice sharing about the vintage movies. I have seen some of the movie as listed above.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Old movie are very interesting and you have submit a very nice posting.

    ReplyDelete
  16. This blog Is very informative, I am really pleased to post my comment on this blog. It helped me with ocean of knowledge so I really belive you will do much better in the future. Good job web master.

    ReplyDelete