If for no other reason, this film is relevant for making you understand why beards are important.
If it doesn't happen right away, it eventually becomes clear that Luis Buñuel is master of cinema. Buñuel's style of filmmaking (specifically in this film) is very transparent in that you cannot recognize his authorship simply from the visual, it is more a matter of diegetic content. True transcendence and a degree of experimentation is achieved along the lines of narrative and the ideas that create this narrative. Style is kept to a minimum. With Buñuel, this is a good thing.
The milky way develops as the two main characters travel back and forth through time in a "linear" pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Yes, that sentence is supposed to sound that way. As stated before, Buñuel's uniqueness in this film is due to an experiment with narrative, not so much with cinema as a medium. Buñuel allows us to think in perhaps the more traditional terms of experiment with storytelling.
The milky way is a film that clearly expounds Buñuel's fine sense of humor. Buñuel has a humor that is truly unique, consequently yielding utterly unique works of cinema. It is a humor that is truly humanistic, irreverent as though it may be.
One particular scene that I truly enjoyed was when the two pilgrims are at a truly horrific/comedic presentation at an all girls school, where the young students mechanically recite reasons for ex-communion from the church to the very enthusiastic parents that sit around and listen. In a contiguous scene we see a band of revolutionaries executing the pope (played by Buñuel for further irony). When the gunshot is heard by the parents attending the meeting back at the school one of them asks bemused: "What was that?" one of the pilgrims replies "Oh... I was just imagining the pope being shot".
There are plenty of other examples of such exquisite comicality so particular to the mind of Buñuel (I might have slightly distorted the last scene in my retelling of it -it has been a while since I have seen the film).
The milky way is incredibly witty, exploring the absurd that makes us human. Buñuel's atheism is not to be misunderstood.
It is the atheism that comes hand in hand with reason for sure, but at the same time there is an understanding for the cultural value
of religion. It is clear that there has been great proximity to catholicism during his upbringing. And when you grow up surrounded
by ideas and images as those of most religions, and confront these to reason, you have no choice but to become a surrealist, after having
evidenced people choosing or made to believe in the absurd. At least it is something along these lines that we could get from Buñuel. Or so much more, or something completely different. He would have been amused.
It is a work of subtle cinema, yet the ideas set forth and played with in this film remain with you. Pacing is slow, but in a good way (just in case you were wondering).