Date of birth
22 February 1900, Calanda, Teruel, Aragón, Spain
Date of death
29 July 1983, Mexico City, Mexico
Luis Buñuel (February 22nd, 1900 - July 29th, 1983)
Selected filmography of
Born February 22, 1900 in Calanda, Spain, the son of well-to-do landowners, he was educated by Jesuit priests, then went to the University of Madrid, where he befriended Salvador Dali, Garcia Lorca and other future Spanish intellectuals.
In 1925 he went to Paris, was accepted as a student at the Académie du Cinéma, and within a year was assigned as assistant director to Jean Epstein on the film Mauprat.
In 1927 he was Mario Nalpas' assistant on La Siréne des Tropiques, starring Josephine Baker, and the following year was back with Epstein, working on La Chute de la Maison Usher.
During a three-day exchange of fantasies and dreams, Buñuel and Dali wrote a script for a surrealist film, which the former shot in two weeks with assistance from Dali.
“If someone were to tell me I had twenty years left, and ask me how I'd like to spend them, I'd reply 'Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other twenty-two in dreams.'”
The resulting 24-minute film, Un Chien Andalou, consisted of a series of unrelated and unexplainable images, the only unifying element of which was in their power to shock.
The film was enthusiastically received in a special screening before a gathering of Paris surrealists, who accepted Buñuel and Dali in their ranks. It is still widely shown in film societies and at universities.
In 1930, Buñuel directed his surrealist masterpiece, L'Age d'Or, in which he laid the ideological foundation for much of his subsequent work. His savage assaults on the Church, the Establishment, middle-class morality, first launched in this film, were to become for him an obsessive mission for many years to come.
Dali was again to collaborate on the script, but the two young Spaniards parted ways after only a day or two of exchange of ideas. Dali's name remained in the screen credits, however.
Buñuel's next film, Las Hurdes (1932), was a horrifying documentary account, surrealistically flavored, of the plight of village peasants, hopelessly enchained by their poverty and ignorance. As it turned out, this was his last film for many years.
Between 1933 and 1935, Buñuel was dubbing American films for Paramount and Warners, first in Paris, then in Spain.
In 1935-36 he was executive producer on four routine Spanish films. The following year he went to Paris, where he supervised the production of Jean-Paul Le Chanois' Spain 39.
In 1938, with the Spanish Civil War raging at home, Buñuel went on a special mission to Hollywood as a technical advisor on pro-Loyalist American films.
He worked on one MGM project that was soon abandoned after it became clear that Franco was winning the war. Jobless and penniless, Buñuel arrived in New York and began to work for the Museum of Modern Art.
There, from newsreel and documentary footage, he compiled a feature-length anti-Nazi film that has never been released, then worked on a series of propaganda films about the American Army. But he was dropped from the latter project because, in his words, "Dali called me an atheist."
In 1944-46 he was again dubbing and supervising foreign versions for Warners in Hollywood. He was considered for the assignment as director of The Beast With Five Fingers and worked briefly on the preparatory stages of the project, but the film went to Robert Florey.
After another abortive project, this time in France, Buñuel went to Mexico in 1947 and there renewed his long-suspended activity as film director.
Ostensibly, Buñuel seemed to be adjusting to the requirements of commercial cinema, accepting most projects suggested to him by producers and turning out films that proved entertaining enough for general audiences.
But the iconoclastic fervor of the past began creeping back into his films, at first in disguise, as in Los Olvidados (1950), then more and more audaciously until exploding with full force in Nazarin (1959) and Viridiana (1961).
The latter, strangely enough, was produced in Spain with the blessing of the Spanish government and under the scrutiny of its censors. Only after the film's release did Franco's regime realize its meaning. The film was promptly banned.
Buñuel was unique among cinema's leading directors in his almost total disregard of technical virtuosity. His films were usually told in straightforward manner with little stylistic adornment or tricky effects; yet his ideas come across not only on the intellectual level but as an aesthetic experience as well.
Working economically and quickly (some suggest he actually disliked the shooting stages of a film), he was considered a good commercial risk by producers.
His main concern remained what he put across and not how. His chief target was still the Church, which he attacked some times with vicious ferocity, at others with his own brand of irony and black humor ("Thank God I am still an atheist," he is quoted as saying).
Buñuel's preoccupation with sexual aberrations and far out fetishes and the iconoclastic nature of his work have made him the subject of public outcry since the beginning of his film career.
As far back as 1939, in the wake of the L'Age d'Or controversy, Henry Miller wrote in a Paris journal: "They call Buñuel everything: traitor, anarchist, pervert, defamer, iconoclast. But lunatic they do not call him.
It is true, it is lunacy he portrays, but it is not his lunacy. This stinking chaos which for a brief hour or so amalgamates under his wand, this is the lunacy of civilization, the record of man's achievement after ten thousand years of refinement."
Later in his career, Buñuel maintained his long-standing reputation for integrity and courageous candor with such films as Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), Belle de Jour (1967), The Milky Way (1969), Tristana (1970), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), The Phantom of Liberty (1974), and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977).
adapted from The Film Encyclopedia by Ephraim Katz
LUIS BUÑUEL: Filmography
Un Chien Andalou France, 1928
L'Age d'Or France, 1930
Las Hurdes (Land Without Bread) Spain, 1932
Gran Casino Mexico, 1947
El Gran Calvera (The Great Madcap) Mexico, 1949
Los Olvidados (The Young And the Damned) Mexico, 1950
Susana Mexico, 1951
El Bruto (The Brute) Mexico, 1952
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe Mexico, 1952
El (This Strange Passion) Mexico, 1952
Abismos de Pasión (Wuthering Heights) Mexico, 1953
La Ilusión Viaja en Tranvía(Illusion Travels by Streetcar) Mexico,1953
Ensayo de un crimen (The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz) Mexico, 1955
La Mort en ce Jardin (La Muerte en este Jardin/Death in the Garden/Diamond Hunters) France/Mexico, 1956
Nazarin Mexico, 1959
La Fiévre monte à el Pao/Los Ambiciosos (Republic of Sin) France/Mexico, 1960
Viridiana Spain/Mexico, 1961
The Exterminating Angel (El Angel Exterminador) Mexico, 1962
Diary of a Chambermaid (Le Journal d'une Femme de Chambre) France/Italy, 1964
Simon of the Desert (Simón del Desierto) Mexico, 1965
Belle de Jour France/Italy, 1967
The Milky Way (La Voie Lactée) France/Italy, 1969
Tristana France/Italy/Spain, 1970
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie) France, 1972
The Phantom of Liberty (Le Fantôme de la Liberté) France, 1974
That Obscure Object of Desire (Cet Obscur Objet du Desir) France, 1977
That Obscure Object of Desire - Cet obscur objet du désir (1977)
The Phantom of Liberty - Le fantôme de la liberté (1974)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie - Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (1972)
Belle de jour (1967)
Diary of a Chambermaid - Le journal d'une femme de chambre (1964)
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
Los Olvidados - The Young and the Damned (1950)
L' Âge d'or - The Golden Age (1930)
An Andalusian Dog - Un chien andalou (1929)