Entertainment » Movies

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 13, 2019
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

Salvador Dalí stamped his name to the surrealist movement and became one of its most infamous, self-promoting and narcissistic practitioners. Certainly, his fellow surrealist, filmmaker Luis Buñuel, used the artist's famous name when he collaborated with Dalí on the wildly controversial film "L'Age d'Or" ("The Golden Age"). But Buñuel's surrealism was something much different from the melting clocks and long-legged elephants we associate with Dalí. Buñuel was focused on social and sexual satire, directly targeting the upper-middle class and the Catholic Church.

"L'Age d'Or" scandalized some audiences and thrilled others, but it also put Buñuel in a difficult place when he tried to fund his next movie. So he took a more economic approach and attempted to make a documentary film.

What does a surrealist documentary look like? Not a documentary about surrealism, mind you, but a documentary — about a poverty-stricken village with a surplus of orphaned children and a dearth of medical supplies — made by a surrealist. It's hard to dress this subject in the costumes of the movement: the whimsy, the irony and the intellectual freedom. After all, this is a documentary; it's meant to reflect reality, which is obviously not the goal of artists who seek to violate the rational.

"Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles" tells the somewhat biographic and largely imaginative tale of Buñuel's attempt to make the documentary film, "Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan" ("Land Without Bread.") And it evokes so many questions about art, especially political art and its ethical responsibility.

This dilemma is embodied in the conflict of surrealist artists, Buñuel and his producer Ramon Acin. Buñuel set out to focus on the irrational, the surprising and the illogical, and he brought these things to his documentary filmmaking. It was questionably authentic but unquestionably influential. Acin, on the other hand, wished to fight for the working class slavishly chained to their wages. Both men's ideas converged but their priorities were fundamentally different.

Based on a graphic novel, this captivating and deeply thought-provoking film directed by Salvador Simó and written by the director and Eligio R. Montero, uses the surreal technique of animation to convey a fictive narrative about a real event. In doing so it brings up all the issues "Land Without Bread" did without facing ethical dilemmas of a documentary film. Does this soften the movie's punch? Not at all. "Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles" opens doorways into a period and artistic movement that still resonate today.

This magnificent Blu-ray combo pack includes a full-length bonus documentary, the marvelously interesting "Buñuel's Prisoners," and a wonderful behind-the-scenes interview with the director.

"Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles"
Blu-ray Combo Pack $19.97
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