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Viridiana (Criterion Collection)

Silvia Pinal , Fernando Rey , Luis Buñuel    Unrated   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Banned in Spain and denounced by the Vatican, Luis Buñuel’s irreverent vision of life as a beggar’s banquet is regarded by many as his masterpiece. In it, the young novice Viridiana does her utmost to maintain her Catholic principles, but her lecherous uncle and a motley assemblage of paupers force her to confront the limits of her idealism. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, this anticlerical free-for-all is as shocking today as ever.


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Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Luis Bunuel has never been too kind to society and its promises of well-being.
Viridiana covers the gamut, and more. Silvia Pinal and Fernando Rey are excellent.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  40 reviews
97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bunuel dares you to laugh. April 26 2002
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
'Viridiana' begins like a mad Spanish variant on Roger Corman's Poe adaptations. Don Jaime is the Vincent Price-like mad widower (his wife died of heart-attack on their wedding night), haunting his crumbling manor, neglecting his decaying lands, mournfully playing an old piano or listening to Bach and Handel records. At night, by a coffin in which is draped his bride's wedding dress, he wears her shoes and corset. In his past is a shameful story of youthful transgression, and an abandoned, illegitimate son. He invites his niece, Viridana, a dead ringer for his wife, to stay with him for the few days before she takes holy orders. In a fantastic ritual, he asks her to wear the wedding dress and proposes marriage; when she refuses, he drugs her, with the aid of his devoted servant - to whose daughter he gives the skipping rope that takes on an importance from the merely symbolic into the fetishistic and violent - and takes the niece to the bedroom for a necrophiliac rape. Prior to this, he had caught her in one of her sleepwalking trances, throwing her knitting into the fire, and pouring ashes on her uncle's bed. Pure Poe.
Poe was one of the acknowledged precursors of the Surrealists, and in 'Viridiana', Bunuel makes use of two Gothic tropes - the Gothic house/castle/manor is often a figure for the disintegrating mind, but also a metaphor for the nation: Don Jaime's madness, his gentility masking a dangerous egotism, his passion perversely and inwardly directed so that it feeds on itself, his neglect of the land, are all tenets of Franco's Spain, a pinched, gnarled, sterile world in this film.
The Gothic was also the genre in which society could dramatise those anxieties - death, sexual deviance, social disruption - not talked aobut in the middle class public sphere. Gothic novels often featured representative, hyper-virtuous heroines who had to negotiate evils such a society would cast out. Such a reading applies to 'Viridiana' also, with the title character, who has spent most of her life closed off from the world, hidden from its temptations, confronted with unpalatable distortions of desire, family, the body, community, class etc.
In 'Viridiana', however, Bunuel conflates these two movements - the Gothic as social allegory, and as site of released repressions. The film's infamous second half - in which Viridiana attempts to atone for a suicide by caring for beggars and outcasts, and her uncle's son's attempts to modernise the home - savagely mixes them up. The beggars, embodying a whole antheap of qualities, desires, realities the Spanish ruling class and bourgeoisie everywhere suppress, take over the mansion, mishandle its possessions, parody its civilising artefacts (food, music, painting, sculpture), a destructive Bacchic frenzy contemptuous of viewers - we may cheer when the meek inherit the earth, but a greater pack of brutal thugs, informing sneaks, loathesome lepers or frothing rapists you'll never see; while Don Jaime, for all his monstrosity, has a quiet grace absent from the other characters. His servants assume their own thuggish hierarchy when faced with the amoral vagrants, asserting their perceived superiority. The celestial Viridiana's initiation into the 'earthy' is not something anyone, whatever their politics, can buy.
It is wholly characteristic that Bunuel should couch this moral dynamite in one of his most visually beautiful films - the recurring Bunuel motifs (feet, ropes etc.; religious paraphernalia as bondage gear); the dense compositions, at once framing characters in their environment and mocking them; and the startling zooms out, from intimate close-ups on parts of the body to the shocking realisation that someone is always watching.
54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypocrisy exposed May 8 2002
By David Drori Dr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
This is one of the best pictures I have seen in my short life of 75 years. The plot is economical and excellent. The direction of Bunuel is outstanding (hardly news that). The plot exposes the hypocrisy of the devout, the fallibilty of human nature, the hopelessness of poverty and the uselessness of instictive philantropy. It would be difficult to make a better picture on the subject. I have seen it many times and I would see it again and again. Bunuel had to smuggle it out of Spain while Franco was ruling it but Franco loved it too... He would watch it in private...
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "That Obscure Object of Desire meets Nazarin" Oct. 22 2006
By Galina - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

The controversial satire was banned by the Spanish government for obscenity and blasphemy after it had received the Golden Palm at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival. Viridiana of the title is a young nun (Mexican actress Silvia Penal) who is assigned by her mother superior to visit her widowed uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) on his farm just before taking her final vows. Viridiana reluctantly agrees to meet with her uncle whom she never knew but who has supported her financially all these years. Don Jaime is obsessed by her cool virginal blond beauty and he sees her as reincarnation of his bride who died thirty years ago on their wedding night. Bunuel gives some of his own sexual fantasies, fetishes, and dreams that he freely admits to Don Jaime thus making him more human. Viridiana winds up as a farm owner along with her uncle's illegitimate son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal, humble and spiritual Nazarin of "Nazarin" here plays absolutely different man). Viridiana, following the great traditions of mad Spaniards, originated by Cervantes and continued by Nazarin, takes seriously great ideas and tries to live accordingly when she attempts to make the farm a heaven for local homeless beggars. Viridiana is a woman of virtue but all her good intentions lead nowhere. I am not surprised that the film was banned and all copies were ordered to be destroyed (Silvia Penal in her interview recalls the dramatic story of two copies of the film that were saved and buried, so they could wait for the better times), I am surprised how Bunuel was able to make this super dark dramedy about the inability of the Catholic Church to deal with the realities of the world at all in his native Spain when Franco was still in power.

Technically, Viridiana is a perfect film, odd and enigmatic behind the seeming simplicity. It's power lays not in the set decorations, stunning locations or the colorful costumes but in a way people interact. When asked what were his ideas behind his films, Bunuel answered, "I have no ideas, it is all instinct".

It took 17 years to bring "Viridiana" home to Spain where it was first shown at the theaters in 1977. It took another 29 years to transfer it to Criterion DVD. Now it is available with several interesting bonus features that include interview with Silvia Penal from 2006, an interview with Richard Norton, the Cineaste editor, and the best one, the parts of the film about Bunuel that was made back in 60th and the man in the documentary is as enigmatic, odd, charming, brilliant, and sinister as his films are.

Highly recommended.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The reluctant masterpiece of Luis Buñuel! March 5 2005
By Hiram Gomez Pardo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
To make such genial film you need not only the natural gift, but besides the moral conviction and the necessary force to push against all the odds this brutally eloquent portrait of the last consequences involved when you decide to be in straight line according the holly precept of a concrete theologic virtue: the charity.

Just think in the historic moment the film was made. Buñuel was essentially an anti establishment artist , and his political posture is well known and one of his primary concerns consisted in proving that we are not in the best of the possible worlds and this statement scopes the shade of the Totalitarian Regimes in search a better world for the mankind : the search of the total welfare implies necessarily the demolition of the previous Status Quo. And if you watch with absolute coldness and free or passionless, you will feel this invisible slap in the face of the most devoted believers the human happiness can be stated. The literal mess when the alcohol make his late effects in the middle of this humble crowd , slowly and progressively goes showing the ugliness of the feelings behind the mask of good manners, creating a real atmosphere of claustrophobia and horror in the worst sense of the word. The sinister parody to the last Supper was immediately rejected by many religious sectors: Once more the forest avoided to watch the real intentions of Buñuel.

This extraordinary, original, powerful and unforgettable film is one the supreme master jewels of the Cinema in any age.

The performance of one of the most beautiful and talented actress in that age: Silvia Pinal as the prodigal nun who really believes in the fact the human still can be redeemable is simply of first rate. And the script deserves simply an everlasting applause. After you watch this merciless picture you will reformulate your inner vision about certain issues you considered out of discussion.
12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Parable from an Atheist. Jan. 26 2005
By Maximiliano F Yofre - Published on Amazon.com
Format:VHS Tape
Director Luis Buñuel was the epitome of Surrealism in movies. All his pictures, even the underrated from his Mexican period, are provoking.

He was an atheist but, as many Spaniards, his soul and works are always tinted by the presence of the Divinity.

His visceral attacks are mostly focused onto the Catholic Hierarchy and the double moral practiced by the bourgeoisies.

In "Viridiana" (1961) as in most of his films, characters are ambiguous. They shed light and cast shadows to each other. There are no "absolutes"; even the more despicable have some traits of "virtue" and vice versa.

This movie is quite straightforward by Buñuel's standards. Without the fascinating and troubling daydream images he delivers in "Belle de Jour" or "That Obscure Object of Desire", he manages to give the watcher a hallucinatory-like world.

The storyline is as follows: Viridiana, a novice just going to profess, is recalled to her uncle's home. She reluctantly goes to pay a visit to her aging uncle and is involved in his lusty necrophilia fantasies.

She flees the manor, but at the railway station she is stopped by the police with the notice that her uncle has committed suicide.

She inherits the mansion sharing its possession with Jorge, his uncle's natural son.

From that moment on two projects coexist: Jorge tries to modernize the ranch's exploitation and Viridian collects and give shelter to a group of town's paupers.

Buñuel contrast this two projects with his usual bitterness and arrives to a final sequence that leaves the viewer in shock.

It is a great and dark film for adult audience. Be aware that Christian, particularly Catholic Christians, may be upset by the final sequences of the movie.

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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