That Obscure Object of Desire (1973) or the last word from Luis Buñuel

That Obscure Object of Desire is the last film the great director ever made. The final scene Luis Buñuel ever shot being the bloody, torn dress in the window of a shop, lending his audience one final ambiguous message to interpret or disregard. It’s Buñuel at his most provocative within his most career defining motif: the essence of desire. Seductively reaching the audience through the perverse nature of the concept and the elaborate story device of using two actresses for the beautiful Conchita. 

Carole Bouquet, is one half of Conchita – playing a well-mannered young woman with a heady desire for Mathieu. Mathieu, of course, played by frequent Buñuel collaborator, the indomitable Fernando Rey. However, it’s Ángela Molina as the other half of Conchita that gives a mind altering performance. She’s unwilling to be subjected to Mathieu’s unbending desire for her. She feels so strongly as to tempt him in unspeakably taboo ways and push him to his limits. The relationship dynamics are Buñuelian staple through the contentious nature of the script and the misdirection within the editing. 

Ultimately, the film boils down to the question of why Mathieu throws a bucket of water on a lady chasing him on a train. It’s a flashback structure with hilarious bits of train scenes in the present spliced in. The mysterious opening prompts a bizarre journey into the misgivings of his former relationship. How far Conchita pushes him and how far Mathieu is willing to go to satisfy her. 

The give-and-take between both actors is intoxicating, both offering something unique. Molina is awe-inspiring across Rey, alluring him into traps and playing off Bonquet’s innocence. It’s an interesting experiment in acting and works to great effect. Only Buñuel, who unearths character holistically rather than formally, would attempt an idea this drastic and unconventional.

In terms of the abject realism, it’s not as prevalent as his other work. It’s not strictly narrative focused, but there is a clear plot that moves the story. However, the obvious nature of the central plot device creates a dichotomy of ideas and motivations among the characters. The characters are truly mad and yet swirling with passion and unmoving impulse. It’s a look into senseless terrorist violence in both reality and in the world of woman. Featuring a wickedly inappropriate romance between one misaligned lover and one desperate, and empty old man. In terms of challenging Buñuel principles, That Obscure Object of Desire protrudes in a more direct and conscious way than other Buñuel films. Abstract and bizarre. An unforgettable experience, as expected from Buñuel.

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