VIRIDIANA directed by Luis Buñuel (Mexico/Spain, 1961)

Perhaps I should temporarily rename this blog ‘Buñuel My Soul’ as I’m currently immersed in the movie back catalogue of the great Spanish director.

Some of these I am watching for a second time but Viridiana is a new discovery.

As with many of his movies it has been widely branded as obscene and sacrilegious; accusations which Buñuel  would have regarded as compliments.

When it was first shown in Milan, the public prosecutor closed the cinema, impounded the reels and Buñuel was sentenced in absentia to one year in jail if he ever set foot in Italy.

Buñuel claimed disingenuously that he didn’t know what the fuss was about; wryly conceding that the Pope probably knew more about blasphemy than he did.

Shot in Madrid, this was the first of Buñuel’s movies to star the great Fernando Rey who is Don Jaime, the randy and reclusive uncle of the virtuous Viridiana (Silvia Pinal) a beautiful young woman about to take her vows as a nun.

Don Jaime gets her to wear the wedding dress of his late wife, who she strongly resembles, then plays out a scene which was apparently inspired by an erotic fantasy of Buñuel’s in which he made love to the queen of Spain while she was drugged.

DJ confines himself to a quick grope but is full of remorse just the same and takes his own life. This leaves his property in the hands of his illegitimate son Jorge (Francisco Rabal).

Viridiana meanwhile takes a redirected religious path by doing good works with the local low lifes.The beggars, freaks and cripples she befriends reward her kindness by trashing her Uncle’s home and, to add injury to insult, one of these winds up raping her.

Here, Buñuel is hell-bent on ridiculing the simplistic notion that poor, uneducated citizens can be morally improved by exposure to Christian values. This satirical message is rammed home when the group strike the pose of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in which a blind man takes the place of Jesus.

By the end, Viridiana’s experiences seem to have persuaded her to abandon her faith entirely.

Buñuel is at his most provocative with this movie which sets out to offend the Catholic church and succeeds admirably.

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