That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)

Released: 1977
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Genre
Director: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Ángela Molina, Carole Bouquet, Fernando Rey, ,
Run time: 103 min
IMDb: 7.9/10
Country: France
Views: 69383


Just after boarding a train, much to the surprise of his fellow passengers, a man pours a bucket of water over a young girl on the platform. Over the next few hours he explains (and we see in flashback) how he became obsessed by her (so much so that he failed to notice that she was played by two different actresses, representing different sides of her personality), and how she tantalised him, but would never allow him to satisfy his desire for her…
Written by
Michael Brooke <[email protected]>
User Reviews: Luis Buñuel is still concerned with chastity and sexual morality. In ‘obscur’ he concludes a trinity in my opinion (after ‘fantôme’ and ‘discret’) and his career as a director. These three films represent roughly the films he made in b/w: ‘fantôme’ represents the surrealism and random dreams of his first films, ‘discret’ represents his critical anticlericism and anti-bourgeois denouncement and ‘cet obscur objet du désir’ represents a number of films in which Buñuel expresses his concerns about sexual morality (Tristana, Belle de jour, Journal d’une femme de chambre). The great Fernando Rey (French Connection, Tristana, Viridiana, Campanadas a medianoche) and the great cinematographer Edmond Richard (Campanadas a medianoche ’65, le Procès ’63, Fantôme liberté ’74, Charme discret ’72) complement Buñuel’s intriguing techniques. Even the cover of the video (a stitched mouth) complements the preceding two (a statue of liberty with a limp torch, a mouth with two legs and a hat). Unfortunately ‘obscur’ is not as startling and inventive as many of Buñuel’s other films: it’s not one of his best, but still very worthy.

A man (Fernando Rey) step in a train, throws a bucket of water over a woman and tells his surrounding passengers (a professor in psychology, a judge, a child and her mother, who inquire because they’re eager to hear the sordid details) about how he met Conchita (former maid, Carola Bouquet/Ángela Molina) and tried to win her by paying her’s and her mother’s bills. This bourgeois man thinks he can buy her love and her mother’s help (like buying furniture, or like trapping a mouse with a mouse-trap). Those are the premises for a moralistic but incredibly subtle story (not a farce) about subversiveness. There is no music in the film, apart from the end scene and some flamenco source music. I do appreciate a film that doesn’t need music to emphasize emotions. That was one of Buñuel’s many virtues.

The mysterious actress Muni appears several times. But really strange are the two actresses playing the same woman. They probably represent the two Conchitas: one rational and very careful not to get trapped (wearing an iron maiden and a white handbag), the other with temperament, attracted to Mathieu but devious and deceitful (with a black handbag just one second after carrying the white one). In Mathieu’s mind Conchita was a hypocrit (Rey: ‘You will appreciate that she deserved the chastisement’). Or is it only the same woman in the mind of Mathieu? Are the two Conchitas representing Mathieu’s constantly changing mind? Or did something happen to one of the actresses on the set so that Buñuel had to finish shooting with another actress? Later that day Conchita carries a brown handbag, after having thrown a bucket of water over Mathieu she must have made some message clear to him, uniting the former two handbags in one (?) and uniting the two Conchitas in one? Their relationship explodes eventually. I’m wondering how that emerged from the novel by Pierre Louÿs: writer of ‘La femme et le pantin’ (1958).


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