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Buñuel in Mexico 

February 01, 2024 – February 20, 2024

The Museum of Modern Art

Luis Buñuel’s Mexican period is often treated as a parenthesis between the avant-garde outrages of his early European work (Un Chien Andalou, L’Age d’or) and the immaculate late masterpieces (Belle de jour, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie). But it was in Mexico that Buñuel became a filmmaker, mastering the technical side of the medium and learning to negotiate the conflicting demands of a popular medium.

Buñuel’s time making films in Mexico—from Gran Casino (1947) through Simon of the Desert (1965)—coincided with Mexican cinema’s most prosperous and prestigious period, the epoco de oro that found Churubusco Studios a credible alternative to Hollywood. Far from being the lone European sophisticate in a sea of local amateurs, Buñuel found himself working alongside such accomplished filmmakers as Roberto Gavaldon, Julio Bracho, and Emilio Fernandez. While Buñuel was able to introduce some films—such as Los Olvidados (1950) and The Exterminating Angel (1962)—to the international festival circuit, the greater part of his production was made for local audiences and created in popular genres, such as the ranchero musical, the folk comedy, the domestic melodrama, and even a marginal horror movie (though Buñuel never met the Aztec Mummy, alas).

With his private, obsessional themes drifting in and out of popular entertainments, Buñuel often seems to be subverting the narratives he has been assigned—as in El, in which Mexico’s most elegant leading man, Arturo de Cordova, finds himself struggling with sexual desires he himself seems not to understand. At other times, as in Nazarin, Buñuel seems preoccupied by the spectacularly harsh landscape of his adopted country, aided by the great cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa as he evokes an ancient, pre-Columbian past.

Organized with the invaluable assistance of Daniela Michel and Chloe Roddick of the Morelia International Film Festival, this program consists of 19 of the 21 films Buñuel made in Mexico (two French-language productions, La fièvre monte à El Pao and Cela s’appelle l’aurore, were unavailable), mostly in newly restored 35mm prints from the Mexican archives, La Cineteca Nacional, and La Cineteca de la UNAM.

 

Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film.

Film at MoMA is made possible by CHANEL.

Additional support is provided by the Annual Film Fund. Leadership support for the Annual Film Fund is provided by Debra and Leon D. Black, with major contributions from the Triad Foundation, Inc., The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), The Young Patrons Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and by Karen and Gary Winnick.

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Los olvidados (The Forgotten). 1950. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Nazarín. 1959. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Viridiana. 1961. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Él (This Strange Passion). 1953. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

El bruto (The Brute). 1953. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal for a Crime, aka The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz). 1955. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Subida al cielo (Ascent to Heaven, aka Mexican Bus Ride). 1952. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

La ilusión viaja en tranvía (Illusion Travels by Streetcar). 1954. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

Gran Casino (aka En el viejo Tampico). 1947. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

El gran calavera (The Great Madcap). 1949. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

Robinson Crusoe. 1954. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Abismos de pasión (Wuthering Heights). 1954. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

Susana. 1951. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel). 1962. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Una mujer sin amor (A Woman Without Love). 1952. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

La hija del engaño (The Daughter of Deceit). 1951. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM

La mort en ce jardin (Death in the Garden). 1956. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert). 1965. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

La joven (The Young One). 1960. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Photofest

El río y la muerte (The River and Death). 1955. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Courtesy of Filmoteca UNAM