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332_box_348x490The contemporary movie going public doesn’t see movies like Luis Bunuel’s “Viridiana” very often.  A misanthropic and cynical movie to the core, “Viridiana” takes pot shots at Catholicism and the human race as a whole.  As one who has never embraced Bunuel’s works before, “Viridiana” stands out as a great work of cynicism from a man with no interest in fraudulent optimism.

The story begins with a lonely man trying to win the affections of his lone remaining relative with whom he shares any bond, his niece about to become a nun.  His obsessions with her are disturbing on every level, she looks like his deceased wife, and the film feels like a dark, Hitchcockian thriller in the making.  She’s naïve, pious and trusting, he’s charming but ultimately pathetic.  But this is only the beginning of “Viridiana.”  The story takes darker turns after the Uncle character is dispatched by his own hand when Viridiana rejects his advances.

In hopes of turning the terrible situation around, Viridiana turns her uncle’s home into a wayward shelter for the homeless and destitute.  In addition, the uncle’s long ignored bastard son is given part of his father’s fortune.  At this point Bunuel relentlessly expresses his opinion that all people are foul creatures not to be trusted.  The son flaunts his lack of spirituality in full view by living with a woman who is not his wife.  He is a voice of a new contemporary world where long respected religious conventions are being openly scoffed at.  Culminating the film are the revelations that Viridiana’s naïve plans for a homeless commune will result in nothing but catastrophe.  The homeless wretches she takes in are all backbiting and opportunistic.  Everyone attempts to use the situation to their advantage, and any feelings of gratitude one might assume would develop are lost in a night of alcohol fueled revelry.

The movie ends on note of foreboding and at the same time ambiguity.  One that seems to stress the intrusion of amorality and apathy into this world.  Viridiana sits at a card table with her cousin, justified in his mistrust of her vagrants, playing cards with him and the house keeper, and a sensation that his intentions with both are carnal in nature.  Her religious decreed chastness, which has been under assult repeatedly but is still intact, seems likely to finally fall away in a way that will feel meaningless to everyone involved.


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