Monday, February 7, 2011

#460: Simon of the Desert

(Luis Buñuel, 1965)

There's something about atheists making movies about religion that annoys me. I think it's the simplicity which they often take to the approach. "God doesn't exist, so let's talk about that." Yet you kind of get it in the first minute of the movie, and then it's time to sit around for an hour and a half while they preach to the converted (irony intended). I get that making a movie ridiculing God in 1965 in Mexico was very different than doing the same thing now. And I know I'm not the audience for Simon of the Desert any more than a fundamentalist is. I just think it's a big waste of time to make art about certainty.

I am, therefore, thankful that Buñuel's funding ran out halfway through filming on Simon of the Desert and he was only able to make half a film. Instead of more adventures in the desert, the film ends with a contemporary dance off, all writhing limbs and sin. Simon looks the perfect beatnik, taking the devil out on the town in their droll ways. It's a horribly meaningless ending, but I kind of like it that way, and felt by the end that maybe every movie would be better served with a denouement just like it.

Simon of the Desert happens to feature one of my favorite Buñuel moments anyway. A man has had his hands chopped off for stealing and has now made the pilgrimage to Simon in order to have his hands restored in a miracle of forgiveness. Simon gives him new hands, in front of a large group of people. And yet... no one seems to mind. Not even the man himself, who simply says "Let's go home," and then uses his new hands to hit his child in the head. Two men walk away and one says, "You see that?" The other man says, "What?" He replies, "The thing with the hands." Good stuff. Simon of the Desert is basically like that.

No comments:

Post a Comment