Friday, March 10, 2006

Susana (Bunuel, 1951)

A young girl of questionable mental stability escapes from incarceration and ends up at a plantation wheres she disrupts a working family's daily routines and chemistry. Apparently, she is some kind of nymphomaniac, but it's hard to tell because the most outrageous thing she does is adjust her dress so that her sleeves fall off her shoulders rather than resting above them. This is a gesture that is repeated several times for (I believe unintentional) comic effect. The bookworm son suddenly can't focus on academics. The hired hand suddenly allows his passion to turn violent. The paterfamilias argues more and more with his wife and none of the women in the house are pleased with Susana's presence in the least. The whole thing is played out as melodrama, but the central character is so devoid of personality that the film never really fully captured my attention. Bunuel's ending is also troublesome as it seems to imply that female sexuality is a threat to the sanctity of the conventional family make-up and needs to be uprooted. Knowing the rest of Bunuel's work, I suspect he was shooting for some kind of satirical statement here, but it does not completely work in this case. The film's purpose is muddled and the film's narrative is not compelling enough to pick up the slack. A fairly insignificant effort from a great filmmaker.



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