Close Up

4 February 2019: Simon of the Desert


Simon of the Desert
Luis Buñuel, 1965, 45 min
Spanish with English subtitles

"Perched atop a pillar in the middle of the desert in eternal penance for six years, six months, and six days, Simon – inspired by 5th century Saint Simeon Stylites – seeks spiritual purification through spectacular means. Reluctantly doling out occasional miracles, prophesies, and words of muttered wisdom to his fickle followers, Simon’s encounters elicit a string of blasphemous comedy routines occasionally anticipating those of Monty Python. His faith is ritually tested by the devil who reappears in various feminine incarnations all portrayed by the beguiling Silvia Pinal – accounting for most of the matter-of-fact surrealist moments that would become signature late Buñuel. With as ascetic an aesthetic as Simon’s, the last film Buñuel made while exiled in Mexico is a richly compact allegory. The cynical tone – balancing somewhere between mockery and sympathy – is consummated by a whirlwind ending which is as incredulously shocking as it is completely appropriate." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our season on Luis Buñuel