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Elliot Rubinstein BUÑUEL'S WORLD, OR THE WORLD AND BUNUEL* THE line OF descent from Surrealist cinema to chosiste fiction—the line which all the remarks that follow are meant at least to trace—is, if not direct, surely collateral. But the genealogy is so complex as to resist detailing in a brief paper. What I offer may be taken for preliminaries, observations on the cinema of Bunuel prompted in large part by a rereading of Robbe-Grillet's For a New Novel. ' The world of any Bunuel film is first of all, in William S. Pechter's phrase, the worst of all possible.2 But the phrase misleads, implying that better worlds are imaginable, let alone photographable, let alone otherwise available. Neithersexual fascination {L'Aged' or, El [ This Strange Passion], Ensayo de un crimen [The Criminal Life ofArchibaldo de la Cruz], Abismos de pasión [Wuthering Heights], Diary ofa Chambermaid, Belle de Jour) nor faith (Nazartn, Robinson Crusoe, Vindiana, The Milky Way), nor any other agency of spiritual transcendence delivers us to a world fit for human habitation. Trailing clouds, but not of glory, do we come, and beneath these clouds we proceed to make fools and martyrs and killers of one another, of ourselves. Unhappily, such views, seized upon as novelties, leave Buñuel at the mercy of some of the most sophomoric adulators ever to hound a major artist. Happily, Buñuel's vision justifies his views; happily, his career transcends his vision. His particular achievement is the sheer variety of worlds he has discovered or reanimated, none quite like *This article, and the one by Stanley Cavell which follows it, grew out of remarks presented at the annual convention of the Modern Language Association, December 30, 1977. The title of the symposium was "Chosisme and the Cinema: the Perception of Physical Reality in Cinema and Literature." 237 238Philosophy and Literature another except in the way it is seen—and each the worst of all possible. The world of Nazartn appears, on the relentlessly gray surface of its film stock, the most conventional in any of Buñuel's works. (I am not thinking of, for one must try to think as little as possible of, some of the potboilers Buñuel had to produce during his Mexican captivity of the late 1940s and 1950s.) Its story of a persecuted priest is left to progress without worrisome spatial or temporal discontinuities. The myth on which its story feeds, explicit in the title, is the most familiar of all, and the inescapable implications of the Quixote and of Dostoyevsky 's tale of the Grand Inquisitor further cater to our certainty of the correctness of our responses. The sole plainly Surreal moment occurs when the picture of Jesus on the priest's wall explodes into a wicked Bosch-like grin, but the image is subjective, "psychological," reflecting the delirium of a wounded prostitute whom the priest is sequestering, and seen only by her. Emotional valences are respected: there is nothing perplexing about the characters' reactions and interplayings . And things are in their place. Such an account of Nazartn recalls Robbe-Grillet's account of Balzacian fiction: All the technical elements of narrative—systematic use of the past tense and the third person, unconditional adoption of chronological development , linear plots, regular trajectory of the passions, impulses of each episode toward a conclusion, etc.—everything tended to impose the image of a stable, coherent, continuous, unequivocal, decipherable universe. Since the intelligibility of the world was not even questioned, to tell a story did not raise a problem. The style of the novel could be innocent, (p. 32) I trust there is no reason to belabor the frailness (I mean with respect to any reading of Balzac) of an argument that pushes to that last sentence. Still, the point is plain enough, and, in its way, and, in its limits, true enough. Because Nazarin (based, by the way, on a novel of Galdós) tells a story in an age when "To tell a story has become strictly impossible" (p. 33) it cannot lay claim to a place in the realm of New Narrative. But there is more to Nazarin than...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 237-248
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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