Él (Luis Bunuel, 1953)
Francisco is rich, rather strict on principles, and still a bachelor. After meeting Gloria by accident, he is suddenly intent on her becoming his wife and courts her until she agrees to marry him.
With the important number of films by Luis Bunuel that are available from his Spanish period, his Mexican exil, and his late French cinephiles from around the world can at least get something for their tastes. Even if he is more reknown for his French surrealistic films, Bunuel took many genres under his particular signature and directed essential timeless films.
With Él and its story of an obsessive lover filled with jealousy, frustration, and paranoiac persona Bunuel will go on and make one of the most interesting thrillers that will go and inspire the great Alfred Hitchcock with his scene in the church bell tower. He also used jump cuts to let his viewer know the anti-hero’s point of view and how he perceives people.
Él was the kind of film I went into with no idea what was the subject and a little bit of a reluctance for another Mexican film from Bunuel fearing this might be a lesser film from the filmmaker. However, this is one of his films I enjoyed the most lately. The only negative comment I would have to say is not even about the film itself but the french subtitles that were poorly translated. As a french speaker, Spanish is also a Latin language and I understand some bits here and there of Spanish and Italian but I could sense that some subtitles needed to say more or were just not right for the scenes. This is a case where the old adage of lost in translation is right for the moment.
Personally, I would rank Él really high but not quite a masterpiece despite the elegant cinematography by Gabriel Figueroa, the elegant but pompous sets of Franscisco’s house, and the use of modern psychology for the central character’s mental disorder. If I would make a list of the 1000 Greatest films of all time, something I am planning to do sometime when I’ll finish the one from They Shoot Pictures, Él will be on it without a doubt.
Of the fifteen Luis Bunuel films listed on the 1000 Greatest Films list, I know have seen eleven and I enjoyed each and every one of them. Needless to say that I digged Él very much. The thriller value and the obsession of love portrayed here makes it one of the most efficient films on paranoia and mental illness.