That Obscure Object of Desire

"Excellent"

That Obscure Object of Desire Review


Pain is a pretty personal thing. Some people avoid it at all costs, while others are inexplicably drawn to it. In Luis Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire, the surrealist master's final film, pain becomes the currency of life and love.

The film begins as Matieu, a wealthy widower, boards the express from Seville to Paris and, as the train is pulling from the station, dumps a bucket over the head of a woman who is running after him. His fellow passengers being understandably baffled, Matieu proceeds to explain what led to his action.

For men like Matieu, cash is the lubricant that keeps the world sliding forward. It buys the best seats, the best service -- and, of course, the best girls. So when Matieu meets the stunning young maid Conchita he immediately tries to buy his way into her bed. She flees town, and Matieu, not used to being denied, becomes immediately obsessed. He tracks her down, courts her (slipping envelopes of cash to her mother doesn't hurt), and takes her as a lover. But he doesn't get quite what he's paid for; Conchita accepts his generosity but, once she's promised her love, she alternately promises and then denies sex -- a duality that's represented by having two actresses play Conchita without explanation. (What do you expect from Buñuel? After all, he brought us the ubiquitous film-class image of a razor blade slicing through an eyeball.) The more demure Conchita, who claims that she doesn't want to be reduced to a mere object of desire, is played by the stunning French actress Carole Bouquet; the bitchier Conchita, who takes wicked pleasure in treating Matieu ever more cruelly, is played by Spanish actress Ángela Molina.

It just gets worse and worse for Matieu, who's played to sad patrician perfection by the noble Fernando Rey. It's bad enough when Conchita just says no, but then she lets young male friends sleep in her room at Matieu's house, and then she takes a job dancing naked for tourists at a cabaret, and finally she has sex with another man right in front of Matieu as he watches helplessly through the gates of a house he's just bought her.

The film makes us uncomfortable voyeurs to the spectacle of a man being crushed -- yet like all of Buñuel's films, it illuminates the diversity of desire and human nature. Who's really in control here? Conchita becomes increasingly unkind in her treatment of Matieu, but when he's finally driven mad, finally has enough and punches her in a bloody consummation, she runs desperately after him, bringing the film back to its beginning on the train to Paris. Historians observe that all systems eventually reverse themselves; now Matieu seems to be in control, but it's possible that there will be another reversal that puts Conchita back on top. Regardless of who's putatively in control, the two are inextricably intertwined in a dance of destruction -- yet neither wants the music to stop.

Underscoring the violent nature of the world, the film is bracketed by random terrorist explosions, soaring fireballs that burst into the frame at the beginning, as Matieu is on the way to the train station, and at the end, as Matieu and Conchita, reunited in Paris, walk down an alley. We are borne from violence and consumed by it, says Buñuel in his final cinematic statement. Pain and destruction are part of the cycle of life. Better get used to it.

The Criterion edition DVD features the original and English-dubbed versions of the film, along with an interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and a few excerpts from an old silent version of The Woman and the Puppet along with passages from the book, part of an interesting comparison in faithfulness.

Aka Cet obscur objet du désir. Based on the book The Woman and the Puppet.



That Obscure Object of Desire

Facts and Figures

Run time: 102 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 8th October 1977

Distributed by: First Artists

Production compaines: In-Cine Compania Industrial Cinematografica, Greenwich Film Productions, Les Films Galaxie

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 26

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Luis Buñuel

Producer:

Starring: as Conchita I, Ángela Molina as Conchita II, as Mathieu Faber, as Mutter (Zug), as Richter (Zug)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Advertisement
Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.