PostED ON OCTOBER 10
Filmed in 1953 during Luis Buñuel's first Mexican phase, Él is a clinical and at times comical portrait of a pathologically jealous man.
"Perhaps this is the film in which I put the most of myself". With the women in his life, Luis Buñuel was protective to a fault. He was distrustful, wildly jealous on occasion, forbidding his wife Jeanne Rucar, for example, to leave the house when he was away. And yet, for one film, he had the strength to laugh at his unhealthy male chauvinist ways: Él (‘Him’, distributed in France under the title ‘Torments’) portrays Francisco Galvan, a middle-class man who falls madly in love with Gloria, a woman he meets during mass, who ends up exposing his paranoid delusions.
The screenplay is based on a true story but allows the Spanish filmmaker to unleash all his erotic-neurotic fantasies in scenes where his taste for provocation and his attraction to foot fetishes (which he would elaborate on later) shine. The bourgeoisie and the Church obviously take their toll, especially when they accuse Gloria, who must have done something ‘wrong’.
But this is not the crux of the matter. Buñuel, who had studied entomology for a time, wanted to use the film as a psychiatric case study and observe his character "as I would have observed an insect". Jacques Lacan would find the film sufficiently well documented to show it to his class of psychiatric students. Él owes much to the insistent and literally ‘demented’ performance of Arturo de Córdova, who is alternately seductive, sadistic, cowardly and, ultimately, pitiful. But he remains unpredictable - like when he almost throws his wife off a bell tower, but then pleads that he was just joking. The genius lies then in the chilling way it strips the melodrama from its protagonist, leading him down the path of sarcasm, where the character's madness becomes all the more apparent. And literally spectacular.
Él by Luis Buñuel (1953, 1h32)
Villa Lumière Sun10 11:15am | UGC Confluence Tue12 2pm | Cinéma Opéra Sat16 7:30pm | Pathé Bellecour Sun17 10:45am