Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert/Simon Pelarhelgonet (Swedish title, 1965)

US Criterion Collection DVD edition


Luis Buñuel is my favourite film director and also one of the greatest of all time. This Spanish-Mexican genius made some of the finest films
ever made and in opposition to all of the Western Cineaste i don't think his late French-Spanish mundane and enigmatic films are his best.
They were truly great but i rate some of his Mexican films as his best as they're made at the height of his power, and it's a HUGE scandal that
some of the best films ever made still when writing this (in February 2022) are NOT available in restored versions (with english subtitles for us
non-Spanish speakers) on DVD or Blu-ray. As, my favourite film of all time - "Los Olvidados", "El" or "Nazarin" and i think only "Viridiana"
and "El ángel exterminador" can be found on such a medium. But, again and again we are treated by new releases of The Western Cineaste
Holy Canon - Belle Jour, Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie, Fantom de la liberté and Cet obscure objet du désir. But his powerful Mexican
films No, No, Nope. And, I still haven't seen "El" and that film is said to be one of his very best. Criterion, Wake Up!

Buñuel made 21 films between 1946 and 1965, this one was his last Mexican film, many of them more or less commercial quickies but some
turned out film classics and masterpieces. This film is only 45 minutes long because the producer ran out of money and Buñuel only shot
for 18 days (says the interview with Buñuel found in the extras Booklet).

The problem for me is that i lack the intellectual and stylistic powers to write a review of a Buñuel masterpiece, and i think a film scholar or a
film critic should do that. So, what can i say about this film Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert) one of his best ever ? The film is one of
his funniest, satirizing religious crazies, hypocrisy, our human weaknesses and the sexual lure of Silvia Pinal's Satan.

The film is a 1965 short long film, or a long short one, clocking in at 45 minutes. Co-written by Buñuel and with beautiful cinematography from
Gabriel Figueroa

Buñuel the ateist in this film is having fun, in a friendly way, with some of the crazy absurdities us humans are doing in the name of religion,
and this film could well be the inspiration for Monty Python's "Life of Brian". The story takes place in a desert somewhere in the early days
of Cristianity and our protagonist is the ascetic Simon (Claudio Brook) and he's a Stylite who lives upon a stone pillar and practicises harsh
asceticism to be closer to God. This phenomena actually happened for real, and the stylite Symeon lived in today Syria in the 4th century AD.

Poor Simon prays a lot and gives advices to his worshippers below on the ground, monks and local peasants but often he's thinking of giving
up and to live with his old mother again (and she lives in a hut at the foot of the pillar). He performs miracles and gives a condemned thief, who
has got his hands cut off, his hands back ... but without getting any gratitude from the man who instead immediately uses his new hands to
slap his daughter. Simon also irritates a lot of people due to his pride, arrogance, and this rises the interest from 666 - The Beast - Satan.
Simon has been standing on his pillar for 6 months, 6 weeks and 6 days - 666 - when Satan lures him with Sex from the Mexican actress icon, The
One and only Silvia Pinal (this was the third film of Buñuel she acted in, the earlier ones were Masterpieces too: the 1961 Viridiana and the 1962
El ángel exterminador. What a trio of films, just unbelievable. Who will win - Simon or Satan ?

As this performance from Pinal could be the sexiest ever put on film by a woman, the answer to the above question can only be one. I remember
seeing this film on Swedish TV as a young teenager and her Schoolgirl Satan trap scene made a huge impression on me (and still do ...).

Silvia Pinal was born in 1931 and made her film debut in 1949 but in today Mexico (and Central America) she's possibly best known for her
VIP personality and for her many Tele Novelas (soaps) and other TV shows and, for her political standings. In the extras she's interviewed by
Criterion and she's quite happy to be a part of Film History due to her acting in the Buñuel films.
The film is presented in 4:3 fullscreen original ratio restored Criterion copy with spanish mono audio and english subtitles, black & white.
Extras: Interview with Silvia Pinal made in Mexico City 2006, a 55 minutes long 1997 Documentary "A Mexican Buñuel" by Emilio Maillé, plus
a Booklet with an essay by film critic Michael Wood


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