Hugo Santander Ferreira
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Buñuel's Philosophical Cinema
(El Cine Filosófico de Buñuel)
by Octavio Paz

To the soul
(Ad Animam)
by Adriano

Wondering and tender gentle soul,
Guest and companion of the body
Now, to which places will you go?
Blank, stiff and  waste
With no games, as you were used to?

Some years ago I wrote some pages about Luis Buñuel. I reproduce them: "Although all the arts-without exclusion of the most abstract ones, have by end the expression and recreation of Man and his conflicts, each of them has particular means and tools to charm us. They build up their own domain i a peculiar way. Music is something different from poetry, and they both are surely quite different from film.

But sometimes an artist goes beyond the limits of his art. We can find, then, an artistic work with correspondences out of its own scope. Some of the movies by Buñuel belong to this group, e.g., The Golden age and The forgotten. 

Without giving up their cinematographic status, they inmerse us into other regions of the spirit. The same happens with some Cravings (Caprichos) by Goya, a poem by Quevedo o Peret, a page by Sade, a short-play by Valle-Inclán, a paragraph by Gómez de la Serna, etc. The movies I mentioned above can be enjoyed and judged simple as movies, but also as elements of a universe with more freedom and complexity than they denote when taken independently.
Beautiful movies over all, whose goal is to reveal the human depths, and to show us the means to sort them out. In despite of the objections that the modern world raises against such films, Buñuel's attempt unfolds under the twofold arch of beauty and rebellion.

"In Nazarin, with a style that escape any pleasing, and that renounces to any suspicious lyric, Buñuel tells us the story of a quixotic priest, whose conception of Christianity doesn't procrastinate too long his confrontation with the Church, his society and the law. Nazarin makes part, as many of Pérez Galdos' characters, of the great tradition of the Spanish madmen. His madness consists in taking seriously Christianity and in trying to live according to the gospels. He's a madman that denies to admit what reality is, and for that I mean what we call reality, and not merely a parody of reality. As Don Quixote, who used to see Dulcinea in a peasant, Nazarín discovers the broken image of the fallen men in the abominable features of Andra, the whore, and Ujo, the hunchback. Also in the erotic vision of a hysterical woman--Beatriz, he perceives the chaotic countenance of sacred love. During the movie--in which we see a lot of the most concentrated (and therefore explosive) scenes by the best and most terrible Buñuel, we witness the healing of the madman, that's to say, the healing of his torture. All people reject him: the powerful ones and the satisfied, because they think of Nazarin as a bothersome being, certainly dangerous. They are the victims and the hunters, for they crave for another kind of consolation, more effective than the one offered by Nazarin. Such misconception, rather than the power of the institutions, haunts Nazarin throughout the film. If he begs, he's an unproductive citizen, if he works, he breaks with the union's rules. Even the feelings by the women that follow him, a new personifications of Mary Magdalene, become ambiguous at the end. In prison, where he has ended as a result of his good actions, he receives the last revelation: his "goodness", as well as his jailmate's "badness" -that of a killer and a church robber, are equally useless in a world that worships efficiency as its most supreme value.
"Faithful to the tradition of the Spanish madman, previously exposed by Cervantes and Galdós, Buñuel's movie tells us the story of a disappointment. Don Quixote's illusion was with the knightly spirit; Nazarin's, with Christianity. But there is something else I should add. As Christ's image fades before Nazarin's growing awareness of the world, another image springs up: that of the man. Buñuel conveys us, through a sequence of memorable episodes, to a double process: the fading of the divinity's illusion, and the discovery of a human reality. The uppernatural steps back before the most wonderful: the human nature and its powers. this revelation is embodied in two unforgettable moments: when Nazarín offers the consolation from beyond to the woman in love in the last moments of her agony, she replies, grasping her lover's image: Heaven no, Juan yes. And at the end, when Nazarín rejects the alms offered by a poor woman, just to accept them later on (not like a donation, but rather like a sign of fraternity.) The lonely Nazarín is not alone anymore: he has lost God, but he has found humanity."
This little text appeared in a brochure introducing Nazarín to the Cannes Film Festival. We were afraid, without reason, of a mischief about the movie's intention, which is to be not only a critic of social reality, but also of the catholic religion. The risk of confusion, that all work of art shares, was due to the character of the novel that inspired Buñuel. Perés Galdós' themes is the old opposition between evangelism and its deformation in church's history. The hero of the book is a rebellious and inspired priest, a truly protestant believer: he quits with the church but stays with God. Buñuels' film has an opposite view: the fading of Christ in the consciousness of a pure and sincere believer. In the scene where the girl agonizes, which is a transposition of the Dialogue between a priest and a moribund by Sade, the woman states the precious and unretrievable value of the earthy love. If there is a heaven, it exists here and now, in the instant of the carnal embrace, not beyond, without hours and bodies. During the prison scene, the bandit appears as a man not less absurd than the inspired priest. The crimes by the former are as elusive as the sanctity of the latter. If there is not God, there is neither sin, nor salvation.
Nazarín is not Buñuel's best movie, but exemplifies the duality of his work. On one hand, ferocity and poetry, dream's world and blood; that blood that invokes two great Spaniards: Quevedo and Goya. On the other hand, the concentration of an non-baroque style that drives him to a kind of exasperate soberness: the straight line, not the snaky trace. Rational discipline: each one of his movies, from The Golden Age, to Viridiana, unfolds as a demonstration. The most violent and free imagination serves a syllogism as sharp as a knife, as irrefutable as a rock; the logic of Buñuel is as strong as the reasonings of Sade. The name of Sade throws light over Buñuel's relation with surrealism: without that movement Buñuel would have been a poet and a rebel anyway. Thanks to surrealism he sharpened his weapons. Surrealism, wich openned Sade's though to him, was not for Buñuel an School of Delirium, but of reason. His poetry, without ceasing to be poetry, turned out to be criticism. In the closed hall of a critic his delirium opened its wings and tore its chest with its nails. Surrealism of bullfighting, but also criticisms: the death of the bull as a philosophical demonstration.

In a capital text of the modern literature, On literature considered as a bullfighting ritual, Michel Leiris points out that his fascination for bullfighting depends of the fusion between risk and style: the skillful (el diestro)-such an appropriate word, should cope with the Bull's dash without detriment of his elegance. True, the good manners are relevant in order to die and to kill, at least if you believe, as I believe, that these two biological acts are also ceremonies or rituals. In Bullfighting the danger gets the dignity of the form, and the form the truth of death. The bullfighter wraps himself in a form that is open towards a risk of death. It is what in Spanish we called temple (character in a stubborn sense); boldness and musical atonement, hardness and flexibility. Bullfighting, as photography, is an exposition: the style of Buñuel. To expose is also exposing oneself, to run that risk. It is also to put outside, to show and to prove: to reveal. Buñuel's narrations are but expositions: human realities revealed after they have been exposed to the light of the critic, in the same way that film reacts to light. Buñuel's bullfighting is a philosophical discourse, and his movies are but the modern equivalent of Sade's philosophical novel. But Sade was an original philosopher and a half-done artist: he ignored that art loves rhythm and sorrow, and that it puts aside repetition and poverty of ideas. Buñuel is an artist and the reproach that someone can make to his movies is philosophical, not artistic.

The reasoning that presides any writing by Sade can be reduced to this idea: the man and his instincts, and the truly name of what we call God, is mutilated fear and desire. Our morality is the codification of aggression and humiliation-- the reason itself is but an instinct that know instinct and which is afraid of being. Sade didn't try to prove God doesn't exist: he assumed it. He wanted to show how human relationships would be in an atheistical society--that's the source of his originality and the unique character of his attempt. The archetype of a republic of truly free men is the Society of the Crime's Friends: the real philosopher-- the lusty hermit that has achieved stillness, and that ignores laugh as much as crying. Sade's logic is whole and circular: it destroys God without having respect for men. His system can provoke many critiques, but he can never be accused of contradiction. His negation is universal; if ther is something that it affirms it is the right to destroy and to be destroyed. Buñuel's critique has a limit: man. All our crimes are the crimes of a ghost: God. This idea, latent in all his films, is explicit and evident in The Golden Age and Viridiana, which are for me, with The Forgotten, his more perfect creations. Buñuel's theme is not man's remorse, but God's. If Buñuel's work is the critique of God's illusion, prism that shapes off and doesn't allow us to see man as he really is, how are men really, and what meaning would words such as love and fraternity have in a society truly atheistical?
Sade's answer, without doubt, doesn't satisfy Buñuel. I don't believe neither that Buñuel is at this point happy with utopian descriptions made by philosophers and politicians. Besides the fact that this prophesies are impossible to prove--at least by now, it is obvious that they don't match the knowledge we have of men-his history and his nature. To believe in an atheistic society ruled by natural harmony--the dream I had- would mean to repeat Pascal's bet, just that in the opposite way. It would be more than a paradox, it would be a desperate action. It would conquest our admiration, not our partisanship. I ignore what kind of answer Buñuel may have to this questions. Surrealism, that denied so many things, was encouraged by a pull of generosity and optimism. Amongst its ancestors we find not only Sade and Lautreamont, but also Fourier and Rosseau. And the last one may be, at least for Breton, the real source of the movement: exaltation of the passion, unbounded trustfulness in the natural powers of man. I don't know who is closer to Buñuel: Rosseau or Sade? Perhaps they both struggle inside him. Whatever Buñuel believes, the fact is that seeing his movies we don't get neither Sade's answer, nor Rosseau's. Shame, shyness or scorn. His silence worries me. It worries me, not only because it is the silence art has preserved during the first half of this century. After Sade, as far as I know, nobody has tried to describe an atheistic society. There is a lack in we, modern writers: it is not longer about God, but about  men without God.

Tr. by Hugo Santander, 1997

Animula, vagula, blandula
Hospes comesque corporis!
Quae nunc abibis in loca,
Pallidula, frigida nudula
Nec ut soles dabis joca?

Presence of my father and that of his voice -fragment.
(Presencia de mi padre y de su voz)
by Rafael Ortiz González

From my father, I remember
Everything that I am in time

Moreover now,
When we look more like each other
In our way to feel, in our way to speak
In the movements of the hands
In the traces of the soul
In the impressions of a gesture

And sometimes, it seems to me
That my father has not died
And that I am only the living prolongation
Of his face
Of his actions
Of his thoughts

I better say
That I don't keep remembrance of my father
For he is always present in my life
In the burning mirror of my blood
In the open field of my forehead

My father's name was... No, it is
Clímaco-the name of a stream
That in a classic language means
A soldier and a fighter

I feel him moving through my blood
As the river that finds its center in the sea
And that my arms and my feet are branches
Uprooted from his body,
From the same roots that nurtured him
From the highest leaves of his dreams

And sometimes I feel
That my father and I are the same
And that he is perfectly alive in me
And that I am perfectly dead in him


Twenty poems of love and a despereate song
(Veinte poemas de amor y unca canción desesperada)
by Pablo neruda

Poem XX

Tonight I can write the saddest verses.

To write, for instance: «It is a starry night,
and the blue planets tremble far away. »

The wind of the night swirls in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest verses.
I loved her. Sometimes she also loved me.

In a night like this one I had her in my arms.
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.

She love me. Sometimes I also loved her.
How could I not have loved her great enduring eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest verses.
To think that I don't have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, more immense without her.
And the verse falls in the soul as the dew on the lawn.

Who cares if my love was not enough to keep her
The night is starry and she is not with me.

That’s all. Far-off someone sings. Far-off.
My soul does not put up with her lost.

My sight seeks her, as to bring her closer.
My heart seeks her, and she is not with me.

The very night that whitens the same trees.
We, those of before, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her.
My voice searches the wind to touch her ear.

From other. She will be from other. As before my kisses.
Her voice, her clear body. Her boundless eyes.

I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I still love her
Love is so short, and forgetfulness so long.

For in nights like this one I had her in my arms
My soul does not put up with her lost.

Though this one be the last sorrow I pour for her
And these the last verses that I write

 Tr. by Hugo Santander, 2007

Poem XX

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.

Escribir, por ejemplo: “La noche está estrellada,
y tiritan, azules, los astros, a lo lejos.”

El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Yo la quise, y a veces ella también me quiso.

En las noches como esta la tuve entre mis brazos.
La besé tantas veces bajo el cielo infinito.

Yo la quería, a veces ella también me quiso.
Cómo no haber amado sus grandes ojos fijos.

Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche.
Pensar que no la tengo. Sentir que la he perdido.

Oir la noche inmensa, más inmensa sin ella.
Y el verso cae al alma como al pasto el rocío.

Qué importa que mi amor no pudiera guardarla.
La noche esta estrellada y ella no está conmigo.

Eso es todo. A lo lejos alguien canta. A lo lejos.
Mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Como para acercarla mi mirada la busca.
Mi corazón la busca, y ella no está conmigo.

La misma noche que hace blanquear los mismos árboles.
Nosotros, los de entonces, ya no somos los mismos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero cuánto la quise.
Mi voz buscaba el viento para tocar su oído.

De otro. Será de otro. Como antes de mis besos.
Su voz, su cuerpo claro. Sus ojos infinitos.

Ya no la quiero, es cierto, pero tal vez la quiero.
Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido.

Porque en noches como esta la tuve entre mis brazos,
mi alma no se contenta con haberla perdido.

Aunque este sea el ultimo dolor que ella me causa,
y estos sean los ultimos versos que yo le escribo.

De Jorge Luis Borges

I glide on your evenings as lassitude glides on the piety of a slope
Your evening is new like a wing over your rooftops
You are the Buenos Aires we had, the one quietly taken away by the years
You are joyful as the star multiplied by the waters; you are ours
False gate in time where streets look at the gentlest past
Clarity over sweet turbulent waters from where the crack of dawn comes
Before lighting my slatted shutter
Your low-down sun sanctifies stately homes
City of garden-light streets
Which I hear like a verse

Resbalo por tu tarde como el cansancio por la piedad de un declive.
La noche nueva es como un ala sobre tus azoteas.
Eres el Buenos Aires que tuvimos, el que en los años se alejó quietamente.
Eres nuestra y fiestera, como la estrella que duplican las aguas.
Puerta falsa en el tiempo, tus calles miran al pasado más leve.
Claror de donde la mañana nos llega, sobre las dulces aguas turbias.
Antes de iluminar mi celosía tu bajo sol bienaventura tus quintas.
Ciudad que se oye como un verso.
Calles con luz de patio.

Hugo Santander Ferreira © First Film Productions 2011