Luis Buñuel: international iconoclast

Former University Library staff member Glynne Parker died in October 2011, and after his death his wonderful collection of printed matter and ephemera on film was presented to the Library. At the time of writing, about 50% of the 2800 items have been catalogued. The general collection will feature in a future blog post, but some material is particularly worthy of mention.

A young Luis Buñuel (top right) with friends, including Federico García Lorca (bottom right), Madrid, 1923. ((source))

A young Luis Buñuel (top right) with friends, including Federico García Lorca (bottom right), Madrid, 1923. (source)

The A.G. Parker Film History Collection contains several books about Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), an artist and man of great contrasts and contradictions: he was arguably the best-known and most significant Spanish filmmaker of the 20th century, but almost all of his most famous films were produced outside Spain; he achieved international fame (and infamy) with his first two features, Un chien andalou and L’âge d’or, but then took 20 years to get his filmmaking career properly underway again; he was a leader of the international Surrealist movement, but made one of cinema’s most critically acclaimed and influential realist works in Los olvidados.

The last-named film marked Buñuel’s first major work in Mexico, a country he moved to after spells in France, his native Spain and the United States, and where he would remain for the rest of his life, becoming a naturalized Mexican in 1949. Buñuel en México by Víctor Fuentes (CCA.56.224) focuses on the work the director did in that country. Los olvidados also recommenced Buñuel’s directorial career in earnest, 2 decades after the youthful causes célèbres of his early surrealist works – made in collaboration with his university friends Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca.

The rest of Buñuel’s career would span many different genres of cinema, contrasting a surrealist’s delight in irrational and confounding imagery with a realist’s sparseness and economy of technique. Though diverse, his oeuvre exhibits some common themes – perhaps most obviously the often satirical skewering of bourgeois morality and religious hypocrisy. Due to this sort of controversial subject matter, Buñuel was much more able to pursue his artistic vision in Mexico and France than in the conservative country of his birth – the one film that he made in Franco’s Spain, Viridiana, resulted in such controversy that he did not work again in the country for almost a decade.

The films of Buñuel’s later career – which, for many, stand as his definitive work – were almost all French co-productions, and his importance in France and high regard in which he is held there are evident in the number of number of books written in French about him and his work. In the A.G. Parker Film History Collection, these include Luis Buñuel, architecte du rêve (CCB.56.218) by Maurice Drouzy, as well as books bearing the director’s name by Raymond Lefèvre (CCC.56.578), Freddy Buache (CCC.56.560) and Ado Kyrou (CCD.56.198).

Danish Bunuel book

Danish book on Buñuel: Kætteren Buñuel, Martin Drouzy (CCB.56.127)

Indicating Buñuel’s exalted status and vast influence on the international stage, the collection also contains books about him in Italian (CCA.56.249 and CCC.56.572), English (CCC.56.570) and even Danish (CCB.56.127). However, unsurprisingly the majority of the holdings are written in his native Spanish – as, despite his globe-trotting life and career, the majority of his films still concerned themselves, at least in part, with themes and ideas that drew from his upbringing and early life in Spain. Here is a list of the Spanish-language titles from Glynne Parker’s collection:

  • El ojo de Buñuel : psicoanálisis desde una butaca (CCC.56.632) by Fernando C. Cesarman [featuring a prologue by Carlos Fuentes, who, along with his fellow Mexican literary Titan Octavio Paz, was an early and important supporter of Buñuel’s work]
  • Buñuel (CCC.56.571) by Carlos Barbachano
  • Luis Buñuel : obra cinematogáfica (CCC.56.559) and El mundo de Luis Buñuel (CCA.56.227), both by Agustín Sánchez Vidal
  • Recordando a Luis Buñuel (CCB.56.268), a volume of personal recollections and photographs by the director’s nephew, Pedro Christian García Buñuel

Christopher Greenberg

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