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Wednesday 14 March 2012

Burl reviews Simon of the Desert! (1965)

¡Ha ha! Esta Burl! I’m here to review a movie from one of my all time favourite directors, the great Luis Buñuel! Now I don’t mean he’s one of my favourites because of the movies he’s made, though of course those are all pretty great! But he’s also just one of my favourite directors just simply as a human being! No, I didn’t know him personally or anything, but after I read his fabulous autobiography, My Last Sigh, I just realized that here, truly, is an excellent guy that I’d like to have known!
Aside from his early pictures with Dali, Simon of the Desert is probably one of his shortest movies! It’s about forty-five minutes, but considering it’s the story of a guy who stands on the top of a pole, that’s about as long as you’d want it to be! In any case, it seems pretty much the perfect length!
Simon is one of these holier-than-thou types, and for six and a half years he’s lived on the top of a column in the middle of the Mexican wilderness to show his devotion to the Lord! As the movie begins, a local rich man has just bought Simon a new column, taller and with more intricate carvings about the capital! The grumpy anchorite has no sooner settled himself atop this new aerie than he must deal with none other than the Devil, who has taken the form of a beautiful lady and tries tempting him down from the column!
He also converses with the local shepherd dwarf, and with a priest who gets possessed and tries to out him as a high-living fraud! He performs a miracle on a handless fellow who proves to be a complete ingrate once Simon has mumbled some prayer and the fellow grows new hands! The bearded ascetic tries to increase the devotional ante by standing on one foot, but he is still assailed by demonic visions; and eventually, in a crackerjack ending, he finds himself having drinks with the Devil in a goodtime rock-n-roll club filled with groovy gyrating hepcats! Ha ha, this may be hell, but at least they have a good band!
It’s a good, solid anti-clerical piece all around, and must have been a bit of a shocker to the devout! There’s some unexpected nudity as well! Ha ha, and the movie looks great too, with great monochrome photography from Gabriel Figueroa, Mexico’s premiere cinematographer! I give the excellent Simon of the Desert three and a half bearded ladies!

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