Luis Bunuel wrote the way he directed sharp, sparing, and with a devilish wit He focuses on what interests and amuses him, never gets lost in details He doesn t offer a lot in the way of gossip and there are aspects of his personal life that he preferred to keep closed see his films and make what you will of his religious and sexual obsessions He doesn t scrutinize the meaning of his work there s a wide body of obscurantist film theorists who have taken on that task, if you re interested but he remembers the illuminating incidents and details, reveals his working process, gives some sense of how inspiration works, and why faith in God always remained for him the biggest mystery of all His films could be pitiless examinations of human cruelty and folly, but the man recalling his life in this wonderfully conversational memoir comes across as, dare I say it, gentle and humane A humanist with a rapier. An article of mine, which appeared at the online academic journal alter nativas No.6, 2016 of the Ohio State University U.S.A., proposing a slightly different than the usual way of interpretation of Bu uel s movie Exterminating Angel 1962 Luis Bu Uel Lived Many Lives Surrealist, Spanish Civil War Propagandist, Hedonist, Friend Of Artists And Poets, And Filmmaker With Surprising Candor And Wit, Bu Uel Offers His Sometimes Scathing Opinions On The Literati And Avant Garde Members Of His Sweeping Social Circle, Including Pablo Picasso, Jorge Luis Borges, Salvador Dal , And Federico Garc A Lorca These Colorful Stories Of His Nomadic Life Reveal A Man Of Stunning Imagination And InfluenceLuis Bu Uel Was One Of The Twentieth Century S Greatest Filmmakers His Many Credits Include Un Chien Andalou , Which He Conceived With Salvador Dal , And The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie , Which Won The Academy Award For Best Foreign Film i liked this book far than i expected to Bunuel is a story teller and his autobiography is not a linear report on dates and names and places instead it is very much a story weaving through time and very personal like a conversation where one thing leads to another associations are made and we don t necessarily end up were we thought we were going to and that is the joy of it plus i really relate to how Bunuel sees the world his chapter entitled Still an Atheist, Thank God in which he gets rather philosophical well, i completely agree with pretty much every thing he has to say, so there is that it s easy to enjoy reading a book that agrees with your world view right and, the time period he lives through and describes is one i am fascinated by those years as w.w.one comes to an end and the Russian Revolution is underway and then there is the Spanish Civil war it s Hemingway and the expat generation in Paris disillusioned by the war experimenting with life to forget about all the death there had been and it s Picasso and the Dadist and Surrealist movements wanting to rip tradition apart and let in new life in the aftermath of w.w.one there was for some a great sense of hope that the madness they had been through would create a new world order that is certainly the way the Russian Revolution began and i suspect the Surrealist movement as well, and it is heartbreaking to read about their failures about the surrealist movement, Bunuel says there is no doubt that surrealism was a cultural and artistic success but these were precisely the area of least importance Their aim was not to establish a glorious place for themselves in the annuals of art and literature, but to change the world, to transform life itself This was our essential purpose, but one good look around is evidence enough of our failure and finally, let s not forget that while i have only seen a handful of his films, i think he is a brilliant director and a good writer and he s a smart or rather thoughtful man i just liked reading what he had to say right to the very end the chapter entitled, Swan Song i just liked reading what he had to say. review of Luis Bu uel s My Last Sigh by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE July 6, 2012 I m not a writer, but my friend and colleague Jean Claude Carri re is An attentive listener and scrupulous recorder during our many long conversations, he helped me write this book. When I 1st encountered the historical traces of Surrealism, probably in the early 1970s, maybe even earlier, it was very exciting to me I ve always loved the paintings Then, over the yrs, Surrealism just started to seem like Breton s takeover of dadaism Breton s constant elimination of the people from the group for their various ideological infractions rubbed me the wrong way It seemed too authoritarian Add to that that I found much of the writing disappointing in contrast to that of the proto Surrealists like Lautr amont, Jarry, Roussel my interest in enthusiasm for the Surrealists diminished I ve still loved the paintings, tho, occasionally wd check out a Bu uel film I hadn t previously witnessed Even Bu uel is someone whose work I ve had varying enthusiasm for I haven t liked many of the Mexican films very much, eg But, then, I got this bk, probably free from my moving away friend Spat, I started reading it in a desultory manner while recouping from an injury , LO BEHOLD , I love Surrealism all over again hope that I can find the 8 Bu uel films I haven t seen so that I can check them out In fact, if I watch them than once I ll be seeing them than Bu uel ever did according to this final statement of his 1st, I must say, that sick of Surrealism or not, sick of Bu uel or not, Un Chien andalou is probably in my top 10 favorite films of all time many others of his are very dear to me indeed L Age d or , Tierra sin pan , The Exterminating Angel The Milky Way , The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie , The Phantom of Liberty , That Obscure Object of Desire being, perhaps, the main ones The only Surrealist filmmaker being perhaps eveninteresting to me being, perhaps, Jan Svankmajer Bu uel s career as a filmmaker having spanned the 50 yrs from 1928 to 1977 he s qualified to talk about 1st hand experience w many aspects of film s development A particular favorite of mine is the Explicator, the person who explains the movie as it s screened In addition to the traditional piano player, each theater in Saragossa was equipped with its explicador, or narrator, who stood next to the screen and explained the action to the audience Count Hugo sees his wife go by on the arm of another man, he would declaim And now, ladies and gentlemen, you will see how he opens the drawer of his desk and takes out a revolver to assassinate his unfaithful wife It s hard to imagine today, but when the cinema was in its infancy, it was such a new and unusual narrative form that most spectators had difficulty understanding what was happening Now we re so used to film language, to the elements of montage, to both simultaneous and successive action, to flashbacks, that our comprehension is automatic but in the early years, the public had a hard time deciphering this new pictorial grammar They needed an explicador to guide them from scene to scene p 32 Now, I love the idea of explication have used it in the 21st century Take, eg, my Satanic Liposuction, Neoasm , YOU wch has a final version revised to include screening footage from Orgone Cinema 1999 five projector version, 2000 Melbourne Super 8 Club version w explication reel change tarot reading, 2007 Jefferson Presents explication from S Cannon, John Allen Gibel myself tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE I think I can safely say that v audiences still often find my own movies difficult to understand even w explication b c they re deliberately designed to stretch the attn reference capacity of the human brain What for some people is a fast succession of incomprehensible images is for others a succession of comprehensible reference points I realize that even if there were to be a human being who cd talk fast enuf to explain these references, it s unlikely there wd be anyone capable of following the speech But that might change I hope that movies like my own might contribute to that change Alas, as much as I loved this bk, I have to say that I was once again disappointed to find that someone whose work I respect was enabled to make it b c of their wealthy family The refreshing thing is how honest direct Bu uel is about it I became even convinced that he was a true Republican as in the Spanish Civil War sense I remember my mother weeping with despair when, in 1928 or 1929, I announced my intention of making a film It was as if I d said Mother, I want to join the circus and be a clown A family friend, a lawyer, had to be enlisted to convince her that there was a lot of money to be made in films In fact, he pontificated, someone might even produce an interesting piece of work on the order of the spectacular Italian films about ancient Greece and Rome My mother allowed herself to be persuaded, but she never saw the film she d financed p 33 Ha ha Bu uel Dali s Un Chien andalou was financed by Bu uel s rich mom I was having a drink with Claude Jaeger at the Select in Paris one evening and became so outrageously rowdy that all the customers left Only one woman remained behind Not exactly sober, I made my way to her table, sat down, and started talking, announcing to her that she was Russian, that she d been born in Moscow and after a string of other details, we both simply stared at each other openmouthed we d never seen each other before p 69 I particularly loved this story b c a very similar thing happened w me In 1985 or thereabouts I went on a date of sorts w a woman that I didn t know very well we went to a bar had some drinks Given my love of extemporizing, I started rambling on w a story about her childhood in Italy basically meant to entertain her I was in just the right mode of relaxation that seems conducive to stream of consciousness hitting an unintentional mark ANYWAY, she asked me how I cd possibly know all these things My impromptu imaginary description of her childhood in Italy was accurate I didn t even realize that she was from Italy Alas, I ve since asked this friend if she remembered that she didn t but I certainly do Like the se oritos I knew in Madrid, most surrealists came from good families as in my case, they were bourgeois revolting against the bourgeoisie p 107 What fascinated me most, however, in all our discussions at Cyrano, was the moral aspect of the movement For the first time in my life I d come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values We had other criteria we exalted passion, mystification, black humour, the insult, and the call of the abyss Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable there was simply no room for doubt Everything made sense Our morality may have been demanding and dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, and coherent p 107 Now I have mixed feelings about the above It was all too easy for them to scorn existing moral systems insofar as they were mostly well to do didn t have to interface w society in a practical manner They were spoiled brats, intelligent spoiled brats, but spoiled brats nonetheless Just as I scorn William Burroughs exalted example of the junkie, wch he cd afford as the scion of a wealthy family, so do I scorn any human who provides an example that doesn t acknowledge the level of privilege that enables it But, to Bu uel s credit, Bu uel acknowledges his privilege is also shown as a person whose ethics were deeply felt many of the Surrealists sincerely addressed socio economic inequality by participation in the Communist Party Many also left the CP by rejecting its narrow mindedness authoritarianism Bu uel explains this well Nonetheless, the Surrealists bordered a bit too close for comfort to my mind to Nazism The composer George Antheil claims that the Surrealists, who supported his music, punched people who didn t like Antheil s Ballet Mechanigue at its Paris premier No doubt the Surrealists were reacting against the oppression of the stodgy to what they considered to be forces of progress Nonetheless, I don t condone bulying by anyone even people I agree w otherwise Surrealists made a practice of insulting priests Bu uel, as a Republican, nonetheless reports even handedly about the Spanish Civil War s extremities of anti Catholicism The priests and the rich landowners in other words, those with conservative leanings, whom we assumed would support the Falange were in constant danger of being executed by the Republicans The moment the fighting began, the anarchists liberated all the political prisoners and immediately incorporated them into the ranks of the Confederaci n Nacional de Trabajo, which was under the direct control of the anarchist federation Certain members of this federation were such extremists that the mere presence of a religious icon in someone s room led automatically to Casa Campo, the public park on the outskirts of the city where the executions took place People arrested at night were always told that they were going to talk a little walk pp 151 152 Now, I m an anarchist I certainly support the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War I absolutely DETEST religion However, I don t support such mass executions A selective assassination of Hitler, yes, wholesale executions of religious people or anyone else just b c I disagree w them, NO Does that make me a namby pamby moderate Hardly People are always in too big of a hurry to kill other people to make a revolution To me, a much difficult revolution wd be one where people actually agree to disagree Despite my ideological sympathies with the anarchists, I couldn t stand their unpredictable and fanatical behavior Sometimes, it was sufficient merely to be an engineer or to have a university degree to be taken away to Casa Campo p 156 I respect Bu uel not for being bourgeois but for having the sense to recognize the social validity of the anarchist position w o having to endorse its extremities to show how hard core he was He had the self confidence to remain an individualist The nazis thought they cd change the world by completely eradicating their enemy , the Jews Anyone, who thinks they re going to improve the world by killing off their enemies wholesale is thinking along the same lines as Hitler despite propaganda bombast to the contrary Killing the enemy is the same old same old shit that humanity s been disastrously pursuing since day one Then there was Andr Derain, tall, well built, and very popular, who remained somewhat separate from the group the Surrealists He was much older than I at least twenty years and often used to talk to me about the Paris Commune He was the first to tell me about men being executed during the fierce repression led by the king s soldiers, simply because they had had calluses on their hands the stigmata of the working class p 122 Oi I wonder if Pol Pot took inspiration from such stories after all, he was french educated The Khmer Rouge are reputed to ve executed people for not having calluses Bataille s wife, Sylvia, one of the most beautiful women I ve ever seen, later married Jacques Lacan p 122 Small world May 1968 was a series of extraordinary moments, not the least of which was seeing old surrealist slogans painted everywhere, slogans such as All power to the imagination and It is forbidden to forbid p 125 I told myself that if this had been happening in Mexico, it wouldn t have lasted than two hours, and there would surely have been a few hundred casualties to boot, which is exactly what happened, of course, in October on the Plaza de las Tres Culturas And yet in Paris a week later, everything was back to normal, and the great, miraculously bloodless, celebration was over p 125 Like me, the students talked a great deal but did very little p 125 Did very little Perhaps Or perhaps they created some T.A.Z.s Temporary Autonomous Zones, as Hakim Bey wd put it showed at least a little of what was possible w o having to kill anybody wch, as far as I m concerned, is a great leap forward I ve spent much of my life trying to actually do instead of fictionalizing about doing I ve often been frustrated by the seemingly common preference for the fictionalization But can I really blame people for playing it safe In fiction, all sorts of havoc can be wrought w o its having to be real Since I knew the name of the leader of this terrorist group, as well as the hotel in Paris where he lived, I contacted the prefect, who was a Socialist, as soon as I got back to the embassy He assured me that they d pick him right up but time went by, and nothing happened Later, when I ran into the boss sitting happily with his friends at the Select on the Champs Elys es, I wept with rage What kind of world is this I asked myself Here s a known criminal, and the police don t want any part of him p 162 Shades of Carlos anyone While my choice of one paragraph out of a much explanatory many may be confusing to the reader of this review, suffice it to say that terrorism has always will always be primarily a tool of the state no matter how it s propagandized otherwise In my review of Surreal friends I mention Edward James, a collector of Surrealist artwork I also criticize the authors of that bk as politically naive or suspect Bu uel s mention of James seems much street credible The Englishman, Edward James, had just bought all of Dali s 1938 output, and did indeed want to give the Republicans am ultramodern bomber which was then hidden in a Czechoslovakian airport Knowing that the Republic was dramatically short of air strength, he was making us this handsome present in exchange for a few masterpieces from the Prado p 164 Of course, this is risky reasoning If our birth is totally a matter of chance, the accidental meeting of an egg and a sperm but why, in fact, that particular egg and sperm among all the millions of possibilities , chance nonetheless disappears when societies are formed, when the fetus and then the child finds himself subjected to its laws p 172 This is something Stanislav Lem explores in some detail, perhaps in The Chain of Chance, perhaps in A Perfect Vacuum, perhaps in Microworlds, perhaps in all 3 In the end, belief and the lack of it amount to the same thing If someone were to prove to me right this minute that God, in all his luminousness, exists, it wouldn t change a single aspect of my behavior p 173 I m reminded of a philosophical discussion I had w my friend Read He made a good case for everything as totally predetermined by what goes before it, I probably debated for other possibilities In the end, we both agreed that it ultimately didn t matter in terms of how we d conduct our actual lives Bu uel tells a story about an autobiography of Dali s leading to Bu uel s losing a job in the US He then meets Dali in NYC He was a bastard, I told him a salaud his book had ruined my career The book had nothing to do with you, he replied I wrote it to make myself a star You ve only got a supporting role p 183 As unlikely as it may sound, I ve never been able to discuss the amount of money offered to me when I sign a contract Either I accept or refuse, but I never argue I don t think I ve ever done something for money that I didn t want to, and when I don t want to do something, no offer can change my mind What I won t do for one dollar, I also won t do for a million pp 191 192 Although I had excellent working relationships with my Mexican crews, I had to accept subjects I would normally have refused and work with actors who weren t always right for their roles When all s said and done, however, I never made a single scene that compromised my convictions or my personal morality p 198 On several occasions, both American and European producers have suggested that I tackle a film version of Malcolm Lowry s Under the Volcano, a novel set in Cuernavaca Other directors besides myself have been tempted by the beauty of the story, but so far no one has made the movie p 194 John Huston made a film of it the yr after Bu uel died My last abortive American project was the time Woody Allen proposed that I play myself in Annie Hall He offered me thirty thousand dollars for two days work, but since the shooting schedule conflicted with my trip to New York, I declined, albeit not without some hesitation Marshall McLuhan wound up doing the self portrait in my place, in the foyer of a movie theater p 194 I m obviously posting my resum on the wrong job boards Disguise is a fascinating experience, because it allows you to experience another life When you re a worker, for instance, sales people immediately suggest you buy the cheapest things people are always cutting in front of you in line, and women never look at you Clearly, the world simply isn t made for you at all p 227 I m reminded of a Michael Moore tv show where he had a black scholar try to hail a cab at the same time as a white recently released convict of substantial criminal record The black guy cdn t get a cab, the white guy had no problem These are lessons that people shd learn thru direct experience It s great to be a big deal director who makes 35mm films gets them shown internationally BUT, then there s this One other thing I do regret about this film are the cuts I had to make to please the censors, especially the scene between Georges Marchal and Catherine Deneuve, whom he addresses as his daughter when she lies in a coffin in a private chapel after a Mass celebrated under a splendid copy of one of Gr newald s Christs the suppression of the Mass completely alters the character of this scene pp 242 243 Bu uel s last paragraph s ending wd make a great scene in a movie paying tribute to him I d love to rise from the grave every ten years or so and go buy a few newspapers Ghostly pale, sliding silently along the walls, my papers under my arm, I d return to the cemetery and read about all the disasters in the world before falling back to sleep, safe and secure in my tomb p 256 Bravo Whimsical and full of digressions this memoir may not be the choice to make for one looking for a walk through Bunuel s life in film What Bunuel gives us is a peek into his childhood in Spain, his life in the Surrealist movement, his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, his life in Mexico and Hollywood, and sprinkles in his many personal likes and dislikes, his thoughts on life and death etc It s as if he wrote it less for the public and for his descendants for that great grand child who one day might wonder what the great filmmaker was REALLY like. I wasn t sure what to expect from this book It is a memoir of the surrealist film maker Luis Bu uel As a teenager, I was thrilled to explore the paintings of the surrealists Later, in college, I saw Bu uel s Andalusian Dog and it expanded my appreciation of the cinema But I wasn t sure how interested I would be in the life of Bu uel Well, this book touches on so much of the world during Bu uel s life and it is fascinating He writes in a very informal, conversational style.Bu uel s memories of his childhood are interesting accounts of his family and personal growth But he describes the life and culture of the early 1900 s in his town in northern Spain He likens the culture of his early childhood as being still in the middle ages and provides plenty of examples to explain There is much insight into the early days and founding members of the surrealist art scene I had no idea how political and at times violent the reaction to surrealism was in Paris and Madrid Bu uel s second film, L age d or so outraged Paris viewers that it was banned for 50 years, only to reappear in theaters in New York in 1980 and in Paris in 1981 There is much in to book relating Bu uel s friendship with the surrealist painters Ernst, Dali, Tanguy, Arp, Magritte and others They were a tight, active group meeting often to discuss and plan activities, much concerned with changing the world than their art His accounts of his short time in Hollywood are interesting and humorous, as well as his many years in Mexico where he made most of his movies He helped me to place Bu uel and surrealism into their early time frame by watch L age d or for the first time available on Netflix streaming I thoroughly enjoyed this book a real surprise to me how much I plan to see several of his movies as a result of this book. Surrealism might seem quaint and old world and outdated in our wired and up to the second bottom line universe, but there was a time when artists operated with a code of principles and pursuits as set out in life and death manifestos Thank God Luis Bunuel director of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, That Obscure Object of Desire, that creepy, non narrative movie where they slice open a pig s eye, those gritty depictions of Mexico City s impoverished underside, and the super sexy Belle de Jour starring Catherine Deneuve doesn t waste many paragraphs with the stale details of the self evident so called truths staked out by the surrealist party line.Bunuel does lavish attention on the customs and countryside of the provincial Spain of his youth, on the peccadilloes of his famous friends and collaborators indiscriminate flattery is not one of the author s faults , on the absurd gun battles, betrayals and executions of the Spanish Civil War, of Hollywood during its infancy, of Paris, Picasso and Salvador Dali The auteur never met a patriotic display that didn t gag him out, and he shows no patience for the religions of modernity and technology Sometimes you just have to say shit to science And other times you just have to say yes to the philosophical memories and musings of a leading light from a gone breed, a movie director who continued making vital, quizzical, deep and entertaining movies full of delight and surprise well into his seventies Somehow, the notion of your own last sigh is a little less daunting once you reach the end of My Last Sigh. This is a wonderful autobiography of the great film director Luis Bunuel I have watched several of his films and really enjoyed them This book covers his life growing up in Spain, his 36 years living in Mexico City where most of his films were made, as well as times he spent in New York, California and Paris Unfortunately, he died the year after this book was written and published at the age of 83 Anybody who likes his films or just cinema in general, should really enjoy this book. One of the great charming memoirs from an artist who I suspect wasn t that charming in real life But Bunuel was such an incredible force in his medium that he worked in the cinema He had his up s and his down s Dali not that great as a friend but he took the cultural big surf as a great surfer and basically made films that were incredibly unique, fun, and wellFantastic There is not one Bunuel that I don t love And I also love this book as well.