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Simon of the Desert (The Criterion Collection)

Silvia Pinal , Claudio Brook , Luis Buñuel    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 27.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Simon of the Desert (The Criterion Collection) + Viridiana (Criterion Collection) + Exterminating Angel (The Criterion Collection)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps only for admirers of Bunuel's films... Oct. 7 2009
By nobody
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Definitely not for everyone. In fact this one may be more appreciated by fans of Luis Bunuel's films in general. Watch this if you relate with his particular point of view. Quirky, humorous and very odd.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Satire! April 8 2009
By esther
Format:DVD
I saw this movie a couple of years ago late on TV one summer night. It's a sharply witty satire, well-worth watching. I had to get a bootleg because Criterion had not yet released it. Highly recommended, although the price does seem steep for a considerably short film. I feel like for $5 more or something they could throw in another shorter Bunuel film. The film is interesting in that it attacks religious hypocrisy with an acidic tongue, but not just religion exclusively, but rather attitudes towards piety and temptation.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SIMON STILL PROVOKES Feb. 13 2009
By Robin Simmons - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Forty-four years ago, Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), the Spanish film maestro still living in self-imposed Mexican exile from Franco's rule, directed what was to become his most famous work of surrealism.

Buñuel's last Mexican film, "Simon of the Desert" (Simon del Desierto), was originally intended to be a full-length feature film, but was cut short - literally - when the promised funding evaporated. With about 40 minutes of scripted material in the can, Buñuel radically altered the ending. A change that ensured the movie's well-deserved acclaim.

Simon is based on Symeon the Stylite, also known as the Hermit of the Pillar (around 400 A.D.). He was one of the many ascetics who sought salvation by isolation and deprivation after the fall of the Roman Empire. Simon chose to live atop a column, dependent on the good will of strangers for bread and water.

Like much of Buñuel's work, "Simon of the Desert" is considered blasphemous by some. The "enfante terrible of surrealism," a name Buñuel loved being called, depicts a bearded, bedraggled Simon (a terrific Claudio Brook) atop his pillar for six years, six months, six days (uh oh, 666), when the devil periodically appears (a la sensuous Sylvia Pinal) and taunts him, hoping he will climb down.

"Thank God I'm still an atheist," Buñuel was often quoted as saying. But he was educated by Jesuits and steeped in religious myth, ritual and culture. His mockery of organized religion is often inspired (no pun intended). Perhaps now more than ever as we are engaged in a global conversation regarding the effects religious fundamentalism and fanaticism.

"Simon of the Desert" comes to an abrupt and improvised ending that reminds me of the best of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone" scripts. Deeply moral and ironic, it's a jolting time-warp leap that gives new meaning to the emptiness of the post-modern age, the banality of evil and the superficiality of pop culture.

The new, restored, high-definition digital transfer is, as with all Criterion titles, as good as possible. Extras include A Mexican Buñuel an 56 minute 1997 documentary and a new interview with actress Sylvia Pinal. An included booklet features a new essay by Michael Wood and a vintage interview with Buñuel.

For the serious collector of world cinema landmarks, this is one for the digital library.

Also new from Criterion is Buñuel's other gem "The Exterminating Angel."
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bunuel takes on Cecil B. Demille. March 11 2002
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
In an ancient, arid wasteland, the anchorite Simon stands day and night atop a giant pillar, scourging himself, rejecting his mother and surviving on a sustenance diet. The poor of the area come to him seeking bleassings and miracles; the religious elders gain spiritual balm from his example. Simon thinks himself unworthy to take holy orders, and is plagued not only by begrudgers who try to prove his hypocrisy, but by his own inner doubts, fears and distractions. The chief of these latter are the temptations of the Devil, who comes to see him three times. At first she is dressed in a sailor suit and suspenders; next as a lamb-kicking Jesus; and finally in a mobile coffin.
Bunuel is usually, simplistically characterised as an anti-clerical or anti-bourgeois satirist, but this is to miss the ambivalence behind a statement such as 'Thank God I'm an atheist'. From the opening scene, Simon is compromised - he breaks his vigil to accept the gift of a wealthy benefactor. His miraculous abilities don't change a barbarously unjust world in which robbers' hands are lopped off, and the religious hierarchy have the murderous powers of the Inquistion. His miracles don't transform the souls of those he helps, instead amplifying their material self-interest. As MacHeath suggested 'Food is the first thing, morals follow on'. There are doubts about Simon's integrity, the extremity of which is often comical, and which is powerless against the sexual petulance of the Devil.
Nevertheless, this very human frailty and hopelessness makes this lisping, Hispanic Charlton Heston quite sympathetic - he does have suernatural powers, which he uses for the good; and he is quicker to forgive than those in religious authority. The framing of Simon against the sky constantly cuts him off from the desert world and community he looks down on, but he achieves, on occasion, an ecstasy they have no access to.
'Simon' is one of Bunuel's funniest and most perfect films, bursting with memorable scenes, such as the dwarf eulogising his goat's teats to an innocent young priest; the frothing exorcism of a hypocritical elder; or the dream-memories Simon has his former, youthful life. The silent onlooking of his mother on the margins gives the film a melancholy, while the slow, steady camera moves towards Simon are appropriately dizzying. Although this comic look at relgious fervour anticipates the irreverance of Monty Python's 'Life Of Brian', Bunuel never breaks the integrity of his world, never gives his characters a modern consciousness, is faithful to the look, smells, emptiness and sounds of the desert (crunching sand, whistling winds, bleating animals, bells etc.) and its people.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satirical, irreverent & hilarious Sept. 21 2000
By Wayne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Simon is a wise and healing ascetic who stands on top of a pillar in the desert. He shouts out his prayers, amusingly at times. On one occasion he starts a prayer, and then half way through says, "I forgot the rest". He also cures people. He gives a handless thief some new hands, the thief's wife then says, "Now you can do the gardening", and the man announces, "I can now spank my son". Some of the scenes reminded me of Monty Python's Life of Brian. Throughout the film Simon is visited, and tempted by Satan, who masquerades as a beautiful blonde woman. She entices Simon, and he repudiates her. The film draws to an outlandish and abrupt conclusion, probably because the funding dried up. A very funny and irreverent poke at religion from Buñuel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars apocatastasis Oct. 5 2009
By Juan Jose Namnun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
criterion collection usually brings us masterpieces of cinema in the best possible shape,
and they did the same with this classi
somebody who has enjoyed the works of Bunuel( or criterion dvds) can be grateful with this edition, affordable, beautiful, full of nice extras,ect
solo lamento el hecho de que los dvd de criterion no tiene subtitulos en espanol, solo en eeuu mas de cuarenta millones de personas hablan espanol, (que es el tercer idioma mas hablado en el mundo, el primero es el mandarin y el cuarto solo lo hablan en la india asi que solo el ingles y el espanol son idiomas universales)
cuando les pondran subtitulos en espanol a las maravillosas ediciones de criterion?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Bunuel! Feb. 28 2009
By Gorman Bechard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Is this Bunuel's greatest film? No, not by any stretch. (For me personally that would be Exterminating Angel.) But it offers his classic take on religious hypocrisies in a brisk 45 minutes. The reaction when Simon produces his first miracle especially is one of the great moments in film. (Really, there are so many wonderful small Bunuelian touches. His take on the "priesthood" is hilarious.) I could go on, but it's 45 minutes, just watch the damn thing!

Thank you to Criterion for the flawless print. The film looks and sounds pristine!
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