Él (Luis Buñuel / Mexico, 1953):

There’s no wit more severe than Luis Buñuel, aboard Freud’s train he envisions newlyweds poisoned by suspicion like a horrific anagram of Sturges’ comic honeymoon in The Lady Eve, that great forerunner of Vertigo. Before that, the camera briefly adopts the wandering eye of the wealthy, middle-aged bachelor (Arturo de Córdova) in church, panning ankle-level from the altar to the aisle and then tilting up from a pair of black pumps to reveal a demure beauty (Delia Garcés). Already engaged, she’s pursued into matrimony by this "perfectly normal and sensible man." (A clandestine kiss on a patio gives way to an explosion near a dammed river, a droll sledgehammer note.) The gentleman is respected by the institutions, romantic in his own mind, and absolutely psychotic, gazing down at other people from a tower and, like Harry Lime in the Ferris wheel, seeing nothing but insects. "Egoism is the essence of a noble soul," he says to his young wife, a battered prisoner of his vicious fluctuations. From the local priest come only condescending bromides, from her mother the voice of entrenched servility: "Just try being more understanding of your husband." A melodrama of derangement and a derangement of melodrama, Buñuel’s study of churning jealousy lays bare the torment behind aristocratic chauvinism. The relation to Hitchcock has been amply noted, the one to Ray’s Bigger Than Life less so. The knitting needle in the keyhole, the pistol in the bathrobe pocket, rope and thread and razor wrapped in cotton: the full panoply of obsession. ("A deeply personal definition of love," proclaims de Córdova.) The cackling parishioners of course become De Palma’s prom revelers, the protagonist’s zigzagging skulk away from the camera at the monastery is one of "God’s crooked lines" so cursed and relished by Buñuel. Cinematography by Gabriel Figueroa. With Luis Beristáin, Aurora Walker, Carlos Martínez Baena, Manuel Dondé, and Fernando Casanova. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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