For Reel

Tristana (1970)
April 21, 2012, 6:35 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Luis Buñuel

In many ways the quintessential example of late-period Buñuel, Tristana is an ample showcase of a number of the director’s biggest interests: obsession, sadomasochism, religion, and so on. Set in Toledo, Spain and starring Catherine Deneuve (in her second collaboration with him following Belle de Jour), Tristana is based on a book by heralded Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdós. Fernando Rey is Don Lope, an atheist nobleman who falls in love with his adopted daughter (as played by Deneuve) when she reaches her late teens. Soon, she leaves him for a much younger man, only to return years later after she has fallen ill with a tumor that will leave her an amputee. Buñuel’s concern is power – Tristana, an object of Don Lope’s pleasure, eventually seeks vengeance on the man who took her virginity. It is the stuff of preposterous melodrama – and, frankly, it can sometimes be difficult to see it as anything more – but Buñuel is fully in control and, more significantly, entirely self aware. Early in the picture, for example, Don Lope quips that the only way to keep a woman honest is to break her leg so that she cannot leave home. With bitter, hilarious irony, it is the crippled Tristana that is the catalyst for Don Lope’s downfall. Just as the director’s final film, That Obscure Object of Desire, would be, Tristana‘s structure is almost entirely symmetrical – the shifting power dynamic happens roughly half-way into the picture, or at least it is then that Tristana’s youthful exuberance is shown to have been quelled and Don Lope’s demise begins. This sense of inevitability is echoed in the final frames of the film in which Buñuel, as if having pressed rewind, traces back glimpses of key moments in the relationship.

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