My Last Sigh

My Last Sigh
By Luis Bunuel
University of Minnesota Press – $16.95

‘’When the script was finished, I realized that we had such an original and provocative movie that no ordinary production company would touch it. So once again I found myself asking my mother for backing, which, thanks to our sympathetic attorney, she consented to provide. I wound up taking the money back to Paris and spending half of it in my usual nightclubs […].’’

On the one hand, such financial insight(s) into how those born on the right side of the tracks might be considered as being honest and brave. On the other hand, it could be construed as being pompous beyond the pale, and such pomposity is unfailingly scattered throughout Luis Bunuel’s My Last Sigh. But once this is fully embraced with such philosophical arms as to be tetchily reminded that not all men are born equal, this testament of filmic memoirs does on occasion, make for revelatory reading.

For such a man as Bunuel who donned countless hats in his lifetime – from that of filmmaker, surrealist and hedonist, to that of Spanish Civil War propagandist, friend and acquaintance of numerous artists and poets (among them Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Federico Garcia Lorca, Jorge Luis Borges) – it ought hardly be surprising that his opinionated candour and vivid imagination, provides for a fascinating literary ride.

With regards surrealism, an area of filmmaking for which he is perhaps most highly regarded, he writes: ‘’All of us were supporters of a certain concept of revolution, and although the surrealists didn’t consider themselves terrorists, they were constantly fighting a society they despised. Their principal weapon wasn’t guns, of course; it was scandal. Scandal was a potent agent of revelation, capable of exposing such social crimes as the exploitation of one man by another, colonialist imperialism, religious tyranny – in sum, all the secret and odious underpinnings of a system that had to be destroyed. The real purpose of surrealism was not to create a new literary, artistic, or even philosophical movement, but to explode the social order, to transform life itself. Soon after the founding of the movement, however, several members rejected this strategy and went into ‘’legitimate’’ politics, especially the Communist party, which seemed to be the only organization worthy of the epithet ‘’revolutionary.’’

This is strong stuff, potent and undeniably reflective, especially considering the relative wealth into which Bunuel was born and ultimately accustomed.

Luckily for us, much of this thinking made it’s way into such a film as 1972’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. As is evident from the following, there’s no way Luis Bunuel’s truth and vision could not be encapsulated onto film; which in and of itself, equates itself with this insightful, although at times, rather perplexing book:

‘’What fascinated me most, however, in all our discussions at the Cyrano, was the moral aspect of the movement. For the first time in my life I’d come into contact with a coherent moral system that, as far as I could tell, had no flaws. It was an aggressive morality based on the complete rejection of all existing values. We had other criteria: we exalted passion, mystification, black humour, the insult, and the call of the abyss. Inside this new territory, all our thoughts and actions seemed justifiable; there was simply no room for doubt. Everything made sense. Our morality may have been more demanding and more dangerous than the prevailing order, but it was also stronger, richer, and more coherent.’’

David Marx

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