Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert) Reviews
It has been written that "an abrupt, ill-suited ending suggests that Buñuel either tired of the subject and wanted to move on to other things, or that he ran out of money and had to wrap before the process servers showed up." The first interpretation is ridiculous; analyzing his body of work, it is clear that he never left a project unfinished. His increasingly scatological satirical criticisms of the Church became each time more aggressive and never felt uninterested; after all, Buñuel was a poor, hypocritical frustrated man that constantly wanted to use cinema as a psychological means to, at least partially, get rid of the resulting emotional, religion-related frustrations that assaulted him since his childhood because of his harsh Catholic-based upbringing, thus directing cinematic statements in a maybe unconscious attempt to justify his own lack of comprehension and egotistical superficial claimings against a metaphysical life that he could never understand and thus assumed as false and non-existent.
But he is a cinematic genius, so those two traits of him should be considered as mutually exclusive when analyzing his feature-length masterpieces from an objective, and still artistic point of view.
Simon is a VISUAL spoof of Jesus Christ, including the temptations that Christ had in the desert from the Devil, which are partially emulated in the same order here. As blasphemous as that sounds, I find that hilarious. However, he makes the wise decision of remaining neutral towards the character of Jesus Christ and instead uses him as a mockery of the Church, which fully criticizes the traits of this mammoth-like institution that even I as a Christian repulse. Normally, this is the film credited to be his most scandalous mockery at religion, but I disagree. One thing is to mock at a religion, and another one to mock at the Catholic Church and his followers. What remains his most childish and immature project is The Milky Way, where he takes a look at believers of any Bible-related doctrine as... well... stupid people devoid of any rational capacity, which in itself is a stupid thing to do, like Buñuel clearly was. Here, he still didn't make that mistake and decided to reference the idolatry that people are capable of having towards any person that can draw a significant amount of inspiration comparable to the stereotypical image that modern society has assigned to Jesus Christ. Here, Buñuel laughs at the futility of miracles, references the factual ignorance that the modern Catholic institution has towards the meaning of particular verses of the Scriptures (that Christ himself condemned in the Gospels against the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees), and makes a satirical contrast between the blind "saintliness" of the early centuries of mankind - which of course still resonates today with fundamentalist doctrines - and the self-destructive, twist-dancing and rock-inspired trends of modernity.
Or why would Simon say: "I just realized I don't know the meaning of what I am saying", after uttering Catholic prayers and words in Latin? That's the epitome of religions based on deeds, which God rejects, instead of faith (Ephesians 2: 8-9).
Less harmful than I was led to believe but epically controversial given its time (and the religious censors of the 60s!), Simón del Desierto is an unfortunately unfinished project featuring marvelous visuals and a magnificent camerawork by Gabriel Figueroa, with an unforgettable performance of Silvia Pinal as "The Devil", who is still today one of the most renowned Mexican actresses in the industry. In my reviews of The Milky Way (1969) and The Phantom of Liberty (1974) I mentioned the obvious influence I perceived Buñuel had over the Monty Python crew (I later confirmed this perception through interviews and was proved right), but now I consider this "short" effort as the earliest possible influence before Buñuel hit French territory once again.
P.S. P.S. Keep an eye out for Brazilian master Glauber Rocha as one of the monks! Buñuel himself was inspired to make this film by one of his films, Black God, White Devil (1964) to the extent of even hiring him for a cameo appearance.
Arthouse Rating: 3.5 stars
If church isn't enough to convince you of the high absurdity of religious fanaticism, then watch Simon of the Desert. Filmed by Luis Bunuel in Mexico, the film takes religious text of bible, and shows it when worshiped as truth. It could've showed the more genocidal and hellish acts depicted as "good deeds", but instead it brings the parts that make the bible (or more the worshipers) a laughing stock. It's much more than a mockery though. It's a story of obsession, spirituality, and self inflicted misery. The film has been overshadowed over the years, but I encourage a watch of this satire. It left a surreal feeling on me, it's a great perspective on excessive spirituality.
(1965) Simon Of The Desert
(In Spanish with English subtitles)
40 minute movie from surrealist writer/ director Luis Buñuel metaphor about a person who functions like a Jesus Christ type of character whose name is 'Simon' who while on top of a catacomb, he's then gets tempted by the devil posing a girl or other expressed through many people to give in means of temptation whether it's lust or food. Self-explannatory but very fact of the matter in terms of it's messages.
3 out of 4