Thursday, January 17, 2013


My first film of 2013 in San Francisco was Tristana at the Landmark Opera Plaza.

Tristana starring Catherine Deneuve, Fernando Rey & Franco Nero; directed by Luis Buñuel; Spanish with subtitles; (1970) - Official Website

I've seen four Franco Nero films in about a month.  He starred in Django, he had a cameo role in Django Unchained and he was a talking head interviewee in the documentary Eurocrime! The Italian Cop & Gangster Films That Ruled the '70s which I saw at Another Hole in the Head.  He had a supporting role in Tristana.

Tristana marked director Luis Buñuel's return to Spain after a long period of exile in Mexico.  The film is a dispassionate treatise on the relationship dynamics between Don Lope (Fernando Rey) and his ward, Tristana (Catherine Deneuve).  An quiet pas de deux occurs in the film.  First father figure, then seducer and finally quietly despised by Tristana, Lope and Tristana imperceptibly swap dominance, vitality & power between themselves as the years go by.

Tristana leaves the home of Don Lope with Franco Nero as her lover but a leg tumor (??) forces her to return to his home with her spirit missing as well as her right leg.  Lope, viewing his past actions more charitably than Tristana, takes her back and in short order marries the younger woman (she wears black at their wedding).  As he ages, Lope's health fails he relies on his young wife to care for him.  At a crucial moment, she exacts "revenge" which results in his death.

My plot description (melo)dramatizes the story considerably.  Tristana's transformation is quite subtle and easily attributable to her missing leg.  Small signs of her true feelings and resentments are revealed but the full extent was a quite a surprise to me.  Along the way, Buñuel lathers on the imagery with criticism of the Catholic Church and Tristana's long-standing dreams of Lope's severed head.

Catherine Deneuve looks beautiful if not slightly too old for the part.  Her performance is restrained but very memorable.  Fernando Rey's role requires more range but he doesn't overplay it.  Their chemistry (or their characters' lack thereof) is considerable.  I believe Deneuve's voice was dubbed as the entire film was in Spanish.  Lola Gaos as the stone-faced maid Saturna made a favorable impression on me as well.

Combined with Belle du Jour (1967), Deneuve & Buñuel were very successful in their collaborations. Conforming to a plot, Buñuel's Tristana (and Belle du Jour but not L'Age d'Or) were very much to my liking.

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