Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Based on the novel by Benito Perez Galdos, Tristana is the story of a young woman raised by a don as her adopted daughter and later his wife as she seeks to find her own voice upon meeting a young artist. Directed by Luis Bunuel and screenplay by Bunuel and Julio Alejandro, the film is an exploration into the life of a woman who tries to find her identity as an adult as she is played by Catherine Deneuve. Also starring Fernando Rey, Franco Nero, and Lola Gaos. Tristana is a chilling yet evocative film from Luis Bunuel.

The film is a simple story about a woman who is raised by a nobleman after the death of her mother as she grows to be his adopted daughter and later his wife. Yet, Tristana finds her life with Don Lope Garrido (Fernando Rey) suffocating as she seeks to find her own voice while Don Lope is unaware of a world that is changing where Tristana falls for the artist Horacio (Franco Nero) who would show her a world outside of the don yet she still needs him where she becomes ill some years later. It’s a film that explores a woman’s identity and her search to find herself. The film’s screenplay by Luis Bunuel and Julio Alejandro does have a unique structure where its first half is about Tristana as a woman in this relationship as she also is surrounded by the maid Saturna (Lola Gaos) and her deaf-mute son Saturno (Jesus Fernandez) as the latter has a crush on her.

Upon her meeting with Horacio, there’s something in the second half that seems to get lost in terms of its narrative where the second time Tristana and Horacio meet, they’re already having their affair. It’s obvious there’s some details that Bunuel and Alejandro cut out from the book to the script as well as the fact that there’s a lot of time-jumping which sort of confuses the story though it is set largely in 1920s Spain. The narrative does pick up steam in the third act where Horacio and Don Lope meet again where they’re careful around each other for Tristana but complications would emerge as it all plays to what Tristana wants to do. Especially as she’s a woman who had been pulled in many directions where she finds herself back in square one all over again.

The direction of Luis Bunuel does have an element of style but is also very intimate for the way he portrays life of a woman in 1920s Spain. Notably as he is always has his camera fixed on Tristana as she is someone who feels lost as she needed Don Lope as he always been a father to her. The compositions are quite simple in the way Bunuel showcases Tristana’s world where there’s not a lot of colors in her world where it’s a mixture of dark colors with white as there’s very little vibrancy in the film’s look. Even as Bunuel would create some strange dream sequences to play into whatever fate Tristana has for her as there’s some melodrama that occurs as well as some eerie suspense towards the end as it plays to everything Tristana went through in her journey to find herself. Overall, Bunuel creates an extraordinary film about a woman’s search for her identity.

Cinematographer Jose F. Aguayo does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography to display the palette that Bunuel wants while using some low-key lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Pedro del Rey does amazing work with the editing with its sense of style that includes some montages for Tristana‘s nightmares. Production designer Enrique Alarcon and set decorators Luis Arguello and Rafael Borque do superb work with the set pieces to play into the period of locations and homes while Arguello and co-costume designer Rosa Garcia do wonderful work with the period costumes that include the dresses that Tristana wears. The sound work of Bernardo Fronzetti is terrific for some of the sound effects that occur in the film as well as some of the moments that play out on location.

The film’s brilliant cast include some notable small roles from Fernando Cebrian as Dr. Misquis, Antonio Casas as Don Lope’s friend Don Cosme, and Jesus Fernandez as Saturna’s deaf-mute, trouble-making son Saturno who always like to do crazy things. Lola Gaos is excellent as Don Lope’s maid Saturna who is this conscience of sorts in the film despite her frustrations toward her son as she also oversee everything that Tristana and Don Lope do. Franco Nero is terrific as Horacio as a young artist who falls for Tristana as he tries to give her a different life only to deal with Don Lope’s power. Fernando Rey is fantastic as Don Lope as this nobleman who loves and cares for Tristana but also has a sense of control for her as he needs her but also knows how much she needs him. Finally, there’s Catherine Deneuve in a sensational performance as the titular character as a young woman trying to find her identity while being pulled left and right over what to do while becoming disillusioned and lost over the decisions she’s made in her life.

Tristana is a marvelous film from Luis Bunuel that features a radiantly mesmerizing performance from Catherine Deneuve. Along with notable supporting work from Fernando Rey, Franco Nero, and Lola Gaos, it’s a film that explores the world of womanhood as well as a woman finding her identity. Though it is flawed, it is still an engaging film that features some of Bunuel’s surreal trademarks to display a woman trying to find herself. In the end, Tristana is a majestically rich film from Luis Bunuel.

Luis Bunuel Films: Un Chien Andalou - L’Age d’Or - Land Without Bread - (Gran Casino) - (The Great Madcap) - Los Olvidados - (Susana) - (La hija de engano) - (Mexican Bus Ride) - (A Woman Without Love) - (El Bruto) - (El) - (Illusion Travels by Streetcar) - (Wuthering Heights (1954 film)) - Robinson Crusoe (1954 film) - (The Criminal Lives of Archibaldo de la Cruz) - (El rio y la muerte) - (Cela S’apelle l’Aurore) - (Death in the Garden) - (Nazarin) - (La Fievre a El Pasao) - (The Young One) - Viridiana - The Exterminating Angel - Diary of a Chambermaid - Simon of the Desert - Belle de Jour - (The Milky Way) - The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie - (The Phantom of Liberty) - (That Obscure Object of Desire)

© thevoid99 2013

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