Reviewed by: Shaun Davis

"A premiditated attack on Catholisism wrapped in an intriging, and often shockingly funny, story."

Courting less controversy than on its original release, Luis Buñuel’s Viridiana gets the shiny disc treatment – its resonance has not dimished.

With Un Chien Andalou film scholars and preppy students alike had a darling, early example of independent filmmaking to chew over: 16 minutes of slit eyeballs, grand pianos and face-bothering armpit fluff; they found an anti-bourgeois/clerical message, and, through these varied interpretaions, Buñuel’s role as a surrealist enfant en terrible has been cast into cinematic lore. In Viridiana Buñuel aims straight for the jugular. A premiditated attack on Catholisism wrapped in an intriging, and often shockingly funny, story.

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Ordered to visit her only living relative, the eponymous Viridiana is packed off from her convent to the rural estate of uncle Don Jaime. The fast-working Jaime soon tries to have his way with his niece proclaiming his intent to marry her. After a failed attempt at a drugged rape Jaime lies, telling Viridiana that he indeed did rape her and she may never return to her convent as a result of this. Dirty deeds play heavy on her lonely uncle as succumbs to the makeshift gallows.

Left with the estate's lowly beggars and vagrants to care for the property is taken over by Jaime’s son, Jorge and his wife Lucia. They take an instant dislike to the nun and her posse of scavengers making life is hard for Viridiana. Leaving Viridiana in charge, the couple leave for the day – chaos ensues. After one pauper breaks into the sprawling homestead, more follow, culminating in a frenzy of alcohol, destruction and sex. The glorious denouement of the mania coming in the perfectly framed image of this beggars banquet: a rendition of religions most sacred happening, The Last Supper.

Hefty material and blatantly offensive in it’s scripted form, no doubt, but it’s a testament to Buñuel’s direction and narrative that Viridiana never comes across as a rant at the tyrannies of organised religion. In fact, it’s played out with tongue firmly in cheek. From cheeky yanks at a cow’s udder to drunken peasants tap dancing to the choral wallows of ‘Hallelujah’, Buñuel’s Palme D’Or grabber is devoid of any contrivances. Whereas Smith’s Dogma and Gibson’s Passion wear their heart on their sleeve poking the stick at all things Catholic, Buñuel throws his distain for societies hiarachy into the mix and lets the chaos commence.

For pure shock and invention it has never been beaten. Grandiose and impenetrable in its aims, Viridiana is the one and only rage against religions machine – don’t miss it.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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A repressed nun desperate to maintain her Catholic ideals is tested as she takes residence on her uncles debauched estate in Luis Buñuel's controversial Palme d’Or snatcher.
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Director: Luis Buñuel

Writer: Julio Alejandro & Luis Buñuel

Starring: Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey, Jose Calvo, Margarita Lozano, Teresa Rabal

Year: 1961

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico


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