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That Obscure Object of Desire1977

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Time Left
  • 4.1
Luis Buñuel's final film explodes with eroticism, bringing full circle to the director's lifelong preoccupation with the darker side of desire. Buñuel regular Fernando Rey plays Matthieu, an urbane widower, tortured by his lust for the elusive Conchita. With subversive flare, Buñuel uses two different actresses in the lead role- Carole Bouquet, a sophisticated French beauty and Angela Molina, a Spanish coquette. Drawn from Pierre Louys' 1898 novel, La Femme et le Pantin, THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE is a dizzying game of sexual politics punctuated by a terror that harkens back to Buñuel's brilliant surrealistic beginnings.

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2 members like this review

Perhaps you might say that it is simply because I am a male that the movie doesn't strike me as particularly pointedly mysogynist. Seems Bunuel was baiting the feminst community just with the strong suggestion of female objectification in the title. But I think it is more philosophical than that, it is more about the way desire and thought objectifies anything desired. But I don't think it is unreasonable to react to it as a misogynistically inclined film , so maybe people who are offended or bothered by any of that shouldn't watch the film theres plenty of other films out there they may not evoke any of that. But I don't see it as grounds for dismissing the film altogether there 's a lot going on in this film that is quite fertile grounds for thought and consideration. Certainly male hegemony was the reality of the time and place the film its auteur and circumstances were made in, Spain and France in the 1970's, where rich men having mistresses is a bigger part of the culture than the more sanctimonious United States we live in today where such things are liable to cause offense, among other things form that time that spell less rights and empowerment for women. If nothing else watch the film to better know the enemy or perhaps just to better know what Bunuel is about. To me, the female protagonist (Conchita) as an evil male stereotype is missing the whole picture, the two characters add their own psychological chemistry to create the over all effect, it isn't just the evil woman attacking some basically good hapless male. The male protagonist could also be seen as the evil tho well intentioned but unconcious capitalist bougeoise, but I don't think Bunuel sees him as being a poor hapless guy victimized by an evil woman so much as a rich entitled if not cossetted and naive capitalist, particularly with the 70's left wing terrorism that is a big part of the background of the movie. Bunuel put that background there for a reason, or many reasons, and it is also a big part of the intrigue of this movie for me: the juxtaposition of the an old rich man pursing a poor young girl on a background of leftist struggles to gain power in Europe. To me that is a brilliant metaphor on a number of levels. But the female protagonist is not so much an evil succubi as simply ambivalent, manipulative and capricious. The male protagonist is not the victim of an evil woman so much as his own juvenile attachment and inability to leave her like a child who can't leave his mother or like the elites who despise and exploit the poor but never seem to want to entirely leave us. To me, it is not really fair to dismiss this film as simply a load of stupid stereotyping. I don't see how Conchita, the female protagonist, is at all an evil succubi, in fact, we don't really know, perhaps the male protagonist likes what she is doing to him on some private level. Nor is it a stretch to see how what she is doing to him is actually a favor to him, perhaps leading him into a deeper perspective and deeper experiences of life than he would get otherwise simply marrying a nice proper upper class woman his age and having a ho hum settled life hobnobbing with Rupert and Claude in the salons, and again we wonder if he doesn't like how she tortures him since he just allows her to continue stringing him along until the"explosive" end. Bunuel's number he does on us here is more a riffing on the notion of desire in general that we actually enjoy what we don't and can't have more than having it. It is again interesting to consider that and ponder the many evocations that has when you consider in relation to Bunuels references to people's struggle for economic justice and freedom as represented by the political struggles of the 70's and look at ways Bunuel may or may not be commenting on any of that in the film. But to return to the question of whether the female character is somehow bad or evil I know that I might somewhat enjoy or appreciate what such a woman was doing if I were some bored aristocrat who needed to feel engaged with something almost life threateningly intense. The guy is definitely slumming it and looking for kicks and he gets some kicks alright, right in the balls. It is all so over the top to get into being comedy and satire. Also Bunuel's use of two actresses to play the female character adds a quite amazing twist to this film, I thought ,particularly if you don't realize that's what he's done. I remember the first time I saw this film around 1982 and I just thought the actress had a quite changeable expression and they were redoing her makeup to create different moods, that they were using lighting to bring out facets of her character it was just mind blowingly uncanny, I could pinpoint what the hell was going on but I was really intrigued by what I thought was just one actress in the way I might be intrigued by an actual quite complex woman. That in itself makes it worth watching th efilm, tho i suppose now that you know thats what he's done the effect doesn''t really work. Switching actresses can have this really amazing way of pointing to how we try and pigeon hole people and stereotype them as being the same person. We just assume the film is reality and you can't just switch people. Well why not, its a film? Or why not in reality, why can't we just have several different personalities, why is that considered pathology? The film seesm to ask that question by doing this two actors in one trick. The effect the film achieves is very much like real women I have been involved with who were similarly ambivalent and manipulative and even having main boyfriends that were unbeknownst to me until later in a relationship and used to slap me around just as in the film here. These real experiences that left me shattered and questioning my sanity thinking that a woman I was involved with was actually several different people in one body with several subtly different modes or personalities complete with a set of different facial expressions etc. and very contradictory sets of feelings and ways of dealing with me as we see in this film as well. I do not feel in any way that these women I knew were evil or abusive. I had very many very rich experiences and an intense emotional life that many of my friends and family never have. When I saw this movie as a young man it helped me understand some things and I thought, wow, that is stunning what Bunuel has done , it confirmed something I had been through, something nobody will tell you about let alone have you experience on such a raw direct level as this film. The movie does an amazing job of involving the viewer in examples of the kind of strings of betrayals that any lovers can perpetrate on one another female or male. They way you will wonder if you are even remotely dealing with the same person from day to day in some relationship. If the film is not instructive to others on subtle depths of perilous kinds of relations with rather ambivalent and manipulative people, I think it is an engrossing, suspenseful even romantic tale even if from a bygone era when rich men were entitled by the society to dominate women from lower classes than themselves. The lower class female character is not evil so much as heroic in that regard, she clearly is beating this rich guy and dominating him for once. For once she has freedom and she has the upper hand and she calls the shots with him instead of as a poor girl having to suck it up and get deported, get pushed into sexual relations and get smacked around. Sure he does those things to her in the film but what she does trumps what he does by a long shot and by the film's end it seems she will continue having this millionaire lick her boots ad infinitum. This rich Johnny Playboy is just running after her grovelling at every turn. She gives him a good and proper ass kicking. Is this the only way the 60's-70's revolution can be won, I think the film asks. I think that is brilliant and Bunuel rocks. While the male character is rather naive and pathetic I don't think we are supposed to sympathize with him particularly because he's unconcious of his privilidege and needs to wake up and she makes him do just that. He is likely just as ignorant of what being a businessman means to those he exploits. She's not evil, he has a problem that he is both rather clueless and never questioning his class priviledge and entitlement and she gets him in an incredibly vulnerable position and she lets him have it and he is so much in her thrall that he has no choice but to listen to what no rich man will ever listen to or care about coming from some powerless peasant: that you disgust us and we only humor you and play along to get out of our condition and if you think we need you your money or you you are a fool, which is what she tells him in the final betrayal where she pulls out the stops reveals a rather savage level to her decepetions and manipulations yet even still he can't leave her and again we wonder if doesn't just like what she is doing, that there must be some sense of the awakening she is creating in him that he may even hold in deep gratitude. He deserves what he gets, I know its not nice to say that, but he has multiple chances to forget her and doesn't. It si not entirely Conchita's doing. So much more going on in this movie, definitely recommended as good seeing now as when i saw it in 1982.

Member Reviews (3)

Perhaps you might say that it is simply because I am a male that the movie doesn't strike me as particularly pointedly mysogynist. Seems Bunuel was baiting the feminst community just with the strong suggestion of female objectification in the title. But I think it is more philosophical than that, it is more about the way desire and thought objectifies anything desired. But I don't think it is unreasonable to react to it as a misogynistically inclined film , so maybe people who are offended or bothered by any of that shouldn't watch the film theres plenty of other films out there they may not evoke any of that. But I don't see it as grounds for dismissing the film altogether there 's a lot going on in this film that is quite fertile grounds for thought and consideration. Certainly male hegemony was the reality of the time and place the film its auteur and circumstances were made in, Spain and France in the 1970's, where rich men having mistresses is a bigger part of the culture than the more sanctimonious United States we live in today where such things are liable to cause offense, among other things form that time that spell less rights and empowerment for women. If nothing else watch the film to better know the enemy or perhaps just to better know what Bunuel is about. To me, the female protagonist (Conchita) as an evil male stereotype is missing the whole picture, the two characters add their own psychological chemistry to create the over all effect, it isn't just the evil woman attacking some basically good hapless male. The male protagonist could also be seen as the evil tho well intentioned but unconcious capitalist bougeoise, but I don't think Bunuel sees him as being a poor hapless guy victimized by an evil woman so much as a rich entitled if not cossetted and naive capitalist, particularly with the 70's left wing terrorism that is a big part of the background of the movie. Bunuel put that background there for a reason, or many reasons, and it is also a big part of the intrigue of this movie for me: the juxtaposition of the an old rich man pursing a poor young girl on a background of leftist struggles to gain power in Europe. To me that is a brilliant metaphor on a number of levels. But the female protagonist is not so much an evil succubi as simply ambivalent, manipulative and capricious. The male protagonist is not the victim of an evil woman so much as his own juvenile attachment and inability to leave her like a child who can't leave his mother or like the elites who despise and exploit the poor but never seem to want to entirely leave us. To me, it is not really fair to dismiss this film as simply a load of stupid stereotyping. I don't see how Conchita, the female protagonist, is at all an evil succubi, in fact, we don't really know, perhaps the male protagonist likes what she is doing to him on some private level. Nor is it a stretch to see how what she is doing to him is actually a favor to him, perhaps leading him into a deeper perspective and deeper experiences of life than he would get otherwise simply marrying a nice proper upper class woman his age and having a ho hum settled life hobnobbing with Rupert and Claude in the salons, and again we wonder if he doesn't like how she tortures him since he just allows her to continue stringing him along until the"explosive" end. Bunuel's number he does on us here is more a riffing on the notion of desire in general that we actually enjoy what we don't and can't have more than having it. It is again interesting to consider that and ponder the many evocations that has when you consider in relation to Bunuels references to people's struggle for economic justice and freedom as represented by the political struggles of the 70's and look at ways Bunuel may or may not be commenting on any of that in the film. But to return to the question of whether the female character is somehow bad or evil I know that I might somewhat enjoy or appreciate what such a woman was doing if I were some bored aristocrat who needed to feel engaged with something almost life threateningly intense. The guy is definitely slumming it and looking for kicks and he gets some kicks alright, right in the balls. It is all so over the top to get into being comedy and satire. Also Bunuel's use of two actresses to play the female character adds a quite amazing twist to this film, I thought ,particularly if you don't realize that's what he's done. I remember the first time I saw this film around 1982 and I just thought the actress had a quite changeable expression and they were redoing her makeup to create different moods, that they were using lighting to bring out facets of her character it was just mind blowingly uncanny, I could pinpoint what the hell was going on but I was really intrigued by what I thought was just one actress in the way I might be intrigued by an actual quite complex woman. That in itself makes it worth watching th efilm, tho i suppose now that you know thats what he's done the effect doesn''t really work. Switching actresses can have this really amazing way of pointing to how we try and pigeon hole people and stereotype them as being the same person. We just assume the film is reality and you can't just switch people. Well why not, its a film? Or why not in reality, why can't we just have several different personalities, why is that considered pathology? The film seesm to ask that question by doing this two actors in one trick. The effect the film achieves is very much like real women I have been involved with who were similarly ambivalent and manipulative and even having main boyfriends that were unbeknownst to me until later in a relationship and used to slap me around just as in the film here. These real experiences that left me shattered and questioning my sanity thinking that a woman I was involved with was actually several different people in one body with several subtly different modes or personalities complete with a set of different facial expressions etc. and very contradictory sets of feelings and ways of dealing with me as we see in this film as well. I do not feel in any way that these women I knew were evil or abusive. I had very many very rich experiences and an intense emotional life that many of my friends and family never have. When I saw this movie as a young man it helped me understand some things and I thought, wow, that is stunning what Bunuel has done , it confirmed something I had been through, something nobody will tell you about let alone have you experience on such a raw direct level as this film. The movie does an amazing job of involving the viewer in examples of the kind of strings of betrayals that any lovers can perpetrate on one another female or male. They way you will wonder if you are even remotely dealing with the same person from day to day in some relationship. If the film is not instructive to others on subtle depths of perilous kinds of relations with rather ambivalent and manipulative people, I think it is an engrossing, suspenseful even romantic tale even if from a bygone era when rich men were entitled by the society to dominate women from lower classes than themselves. The lower class female character is not evil so much as heroic in that regard, she clearly is beating this rich guy and dominating him for once. For once she has freedom and she has the upper hand and she calls the shots with him instead of as a poor girl having to suck it up and get deported, get pushed into sexual relations and get smacked around. Sure he does those things to her in the film but what she does trumps what he does by a long shot and by the film's end it seems she will continue having this millionaire lick her boots ad infinitum. This rich Johnny Playboy is just running after her grovelling at every turn. She gives him a good and proper ass kicking. Is this the only way the 60's-70's revolution can be won, I think the film asks. I think that is brilliant and Bunuel rocks. While the male character is rather naive and pathetic I don't think we are supposed to sympathize with him particularly because he's unconcious of his privilidege and needs to wake up and she makes him do just that. He is likely just as ignorant of what being a businessman means to those he exploits. She's not evil, he has a problem that he is both rather clueless and never questioning his class priviledge and entitlement and she gets him in an incredibly vulnerable position and she lets him have it and he is so much in her thrall that he has no choice but to listen to what no rich man will ever listen to or care about coming from some powerless peasant: that you disgust us and we only humor you and play along to get out of our condition and if you think we need you your money or you you are a fool, which is what she tells him in the final betrayal where she pulls out the stops reveals a rather savage level to her decepetions and manipulations yet even still he can't leave her and again we wonder if doesn't just like what she is doing, that there must be some sense of the awakening she is creating in him that he may even hold in deep gratitude. He deserves what he gets, I know its not nice to say that, but he has multiple chances to forget her and doesn't. It si not entirely Conchita's doing. So much more going on in this movie, definitely recommended as good seeing now as when i saw it in 1982.

2 members like this review

Extremely good analysis, my friend. I loved this movie.

I didn't expect this. Only Buñuel could be this brilliant.

I was honestly pretty shocked and disappointed by how entirely this film is built on some of most vile and nasty stereotypes of women as evil succubi. This film has little to do with "eroticism" or "the darker side of desire" -- it mainly revolves around the intrinsic power imbalances of gender within capitalism, aggressively dramatizing and demonizing the position that women (more often poor, and financially dependent on men) are placed in, while barely making the slightest critique of the position that men (more often rich, and financially and socially in control of women) hold and are granted, and even extending quite a bit of sympathy for it. Beyond vapid stereotyping, there is very little meaningful plot or character development; the same basic concepts are recycled over and over. Not to mention it makes light of sexual coercion and blatant disregard of hard "nos," even though it doesn't escalate to rape; on this topic, only the man's subjective view is represented, and the surrounding characters are predictably sympathetic to his plight. Intellectually, artistically, and politically disappointing, it's an underwhelming retelling of a standard cultural narrative that is both stale and toxic. A shame that the decent filmmaking skills were wasted on such an inane plot, weak concept, and uninspired misogyny. Given that this is one of the first films on Fandor I've watched, I'm not particularly impressed by the curation so far.

Sorry. But I think your assessment of the film consists of mere politically correct stereotypes handed to you by our myopic and divisive mainstream press. Read Erik C's analysis above. His fearlessness and honesty are both ruthless and extremely generous to the human condition, and love. Your last comment about Fandor's curation smacks of the fascist censorship of free speech and artistic expression that is all too common and banal these days.