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Simon of the Desert (The Criterion Collection)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Silvia Pinal, Claudio Brook, Enrique Álvarez Félix, Hortensia Santoveña, Francisco Reiguera
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel
  • Writers: Luis Buñuel, Julio Alejandro
  • Producers: Gustavo Alatriste
  • Format: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC, Special Edition, Subtitled
  • Language: Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: NR
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Feb. 10 2009
  • Run Time: 45 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001LMU19Q
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #14,958 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)

Customer Reviews

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By esther on April 8 2009
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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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 19 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
By Robin Simmons - Published on
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."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
apocatastasis Oct. 5 2009
By Juan Jose Namnun - Published on
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
Classic Bunuel! Feb. 28 2009
By Gorman Bechard - Published on
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!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Simon great movie- Slow Amazon shipping. Aug. 8 2012
By I´m not a Pen Name - Published on
Verified Purchase
Simon of the Desert is a brilliant film
Hilarious at some degree, but very clever and not taking evident position in the aspects it treats.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Despite the film running out of money to fully complete it, the content included on this DVD is top notch! Highly recommended! Nov. 23 2009
By Dennis A. Amith - Published on
Luis Buñuel, the world renown Spanish director who had a successful career in Mexico and France is known for films such as "Belle de Jour", "Viridiana", "Nazarin", "El angel exterminador" (a.k.a. The Exterminating Angel) to name a few. But what Buñuel is known for was his quickness of his filmmaking and ability to transcend from working in Mexican and French cinema, but also his dark humor and the fact that he is an atheist and is critical of religion.

One film that he uses religion to showcase his critical view to religion was the 1965 film "Simon of the Desert" which was the third film starring actress Silvia Pinal ("Viridiana", "The Exterminating Angel") and Claudio Brook. And produced by Gustavo Alatriste, husband of Pinal.

"Simon of the Desert" is a dark comedy parodying Saint Simeon Stylites, the Christian ascetic saint who lived for 37 years on top of a platform in Syria.

In the film, Simon (played by Claudio Brook) has been living on top of the platform for six years, six months and six days. Simon prays for God to spiritually purify him and it has become his mission to stay on top of the platform giving his life to God. A congregation of priests are proud of what Simon had accomplish that they have built him a larger platform for which he can live, while supplying him with water and lettuce (which he prefers to only eat). Simon's mother has also taken refuge near the base of the platform in order to be there for her son.

But Satan (played by Silvia Pinal) will do whatever he can to prevent Simon from accomplishing his mission and making him come down the platform. The devil takes the disguise of a woman who sings and tries to use her body as a way to get him to stop. The devil also uses a disguise of Jesus Christ in order to get him to stop. The devil also possesses one of the priests in order to make Simon look like a fraud in front of the other priests.

But who will win in the end...Simon or Satan?


"Simon in the Desert" is presented in black and white (1:33:1 aspect ratio). According to The Criterion Collection, the picture has been slightly windowboxed to ensure that the maximum image is visible on all monitors. Picture quality is actually very good for a film created back in 1965. Blacks are nice and deep and Criterion gave the film a solid high-definition transfer. The transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm duplicate negative and thousands of instances of dirt, debris and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration system.

I personally didn't see any major artifacting and the scratches and dust are so minimal that Criterion did a fantastic job on the video transfer.

As for the audio, audio is presented in mono. According to Criterion, the soundtrack was mastered at 24-Bit from the 35mm optical soundtrack negative. Pops, crackle, hiss and hum were reduced with an array of audio restoration techniques.

Subtitles are in English.


"Simon of the Desert" comes with the following special features:

* A Mexican Buñuel - (55:41) A 1997 documentary produced by Emilio Maillé. Maillé goes into detail of the life of Luis Buñuel as he lived in the United States and then moving to Mexico and eventually the filming of "Simon of the Desert" and a tribute made for him.
* Silvia Pinal - (6:39) An interview with Silvia Pinal recorded in Mexico City in January 2006 exclusively for the Criterion Collection. The actress talks about her working relationship with Luis Buñuel and working on this film.
* 28-Page Booklet - Featuring an essay by Michael Wood titled "Damned if you do..." about "Simon in the Desert" plus an interview excerpted from "Objects of Desire: Conversations with Luis Buñuel, a compilation of interviews conducted by film critics Jose de la Colina and Tomas Perez between 1975 and 1977.


"Simon of the Desert" is a film that features very good cinematography. May it be from a far distance as you can see Simon standing on the high platform (yes, they actually created an actual stone platform that is still in the field today and can't be removed because it's so heavy) or closeups of the character's face. Criterion's transfer is quite solid as you see the detail of Simon's hair waving in the distance and Buñuel was good in capturing just a little of Pinal's sexiness and not overdoing the temptation bit.

I have no doubt that this film was probably considered blasphemous at the time, in fact, Buñuel's first film with Pinal "Viridiana" riled up the Vatican that he had to seek exile in Mexico. But that was part of Buñuel's perspective on religion. He was an atheist at heart and took liberty of poking fun on Christianity. Why would a man give up his whole life for a God that is really not doing anything? I suppose Buñuel looked at Simon's worship as a waste of time and a waste of life and if anything, Buñuel was known to have debates and conversations with priests who were his friends on the subject of religion.

If there was one scene that stays in my mind, it's a scene where a family begs for Simon to ask God for his help. A man who was caught stealing had his hands cut off and the family begs forgiveness and sure enough, after prayer, the man receives his hands. And the first thing the man does after leaving is swatting his kid right in the head.

Aside from Buñuel's athiest view on religion, probably the most jarring part about the the film is that it would never be fully completed as producer Alatriste was unable to financially support the making of the film as the golden age of Mexico has come to its end. So, in order to have some finality with the film, Buñuel came up with an ending which may or may not leave viewers satisfied but both Buñuel and Pinal have been vocal that they wished the film could have been fully completed and that the ending would have been different.

So, at 45-minutes long, "Simon of the Desert" is a low-tier Criterion release of an uncompleted film. But do not let that deter you from this purchase because the film is still quite entertaining and I actually found it quite fascinating, even to its ending scene that was a bit awkward but at the same time, it was very 1965 and definitely an interesting moment of the film that just sticks out. I found it to be quite fun although I really would love to know how Buñuel would have ended the film?

Overall, this is a solid release and for the lower-tier Criterion titles, this one comes with worthy special features and insightful and informative booklet. You really get a bang for your buck as the special features and the accompanying 28-page booklet along with the film is well worth the price (especially when this DVD is on sale which I picked up for under $13).

If you are a Luis Buñuel fan or wanting a Criterion title that is low in price but yet big enough in content, "Simon of the Desert" is definitely worth having in your Criterion collection. Recommended!