Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
dir. Luis Bunuel scr. Julio Alejandro and Luis Bunuel cin. Jose F. Aguayo with Silvia Pinal, Francisco Rabal, Fernando Rey, Margarita Lozano
In 100 words: The master of satire and irony has fashioned his most brutal takedown of the Franco regime and the Catholic Church in this comically bleak film. Viridiana is like great literature: rich in symbolism and social critique but married to Bunuel’s unique sense of wit, humor and visual grammar. Each scene is incredibly designed—Bunuel doesn’t always reveal his cards upfront, nor is he exactly subtle, but his assured direction ensures that the payoffs land hard. And boy do they sting: his views on the folly of sainthood and charity and the darkness of human nature are dense, insightful, and uncompromising.
Other Movies for Context: Bunuel is one of my absolute favorite directors ever because his work shows tremendous skill in the use of irony and satire. Viridiana feels close in association with Los Olvidados (1951), a fine satire similar in its bleakness to this one. I also see a lot of L’Age d’Or (1932) in this one, only more bitter and cynical. Bunuel will make two more appearances on this list.
Part of the 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
Talk to Her aka Hable con Ella
dir. Pedro Almodovar scr. Pedro Almodovar cin. Javier Aguirresarobe with Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Rosario Flores
In 100 Words: A complex portrayal of devotion, Almodovar’s masterpiece audaciously blurs the line between love and obsession, care and harm, all the while testing the limits of his audience’s sympathies and moral boundaries. Inspired by dance, older films, and music, his formal control here—emotionally charged colors, expressive design and cinematography, haunting score—adds dimensions to a script that perversely refuses to demonize its characters’ worst impulses and transgressions. But beyond its technical sublimity, this is the rare film to depict men who have feminine qualities without questioning their masculinity, while exploring the different ways people choose to communicate with each other.
Other Movies for Context: I adore Pedro Almodovar, and his filmography is divine, always smartly mixing melodrama with farce and comedy, while still being able precise about human sexuality, how they relate to one another, etc. I’ll start with Volver (2006), my personal favorite of his, along with All About My Mother (1999) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) is pretty good too, even if it is a little icky, storywise.