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Inception Antidote – Luis Buñuel’s "Simon of the Desert"

I hate to write a negative review of anything – what’s the point, really? – and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade who might have enjoyed it – but I hated Inception. I mean, I didn’t just not like it, it made me angry. Sure it was better than your standard Hollywood summer blockbuster garbage (eg, Transformers) but folks are bandying about the word “masterpiece”, calling Christopher Nolan “Kubrickian.” Please. What’s worse than a movie that makes you think, but for no reason? A movie without theme or meaning or even a coherent plot? (And don’t pull that “it’s a commentary on film making” nonsense on me – that meta-excuse is for hacks with no ideas).

Anyway, if you want to read at best mixed reviews, you can check out Andrew O’Hehir in Salon (“Nolan’s images are visually impressive…[but] they look instead like mediocre action films from the ’90s”), David Denby in The New Yorker (“no spiritual meaning or social resonance to any of this”), or David Edelstein in New York Magazine (“Christopher Nolan’s Inception manages to be clunky and confusing on four separate levels of reality”). And of course, if you want to read a really negative review, everybody’s favorite playa hata, Armond White, called it “Despicable Inception” in NY Press (“beginning-of-the-end moment for film culture”, “a simple-minded sappiness at the heart of this cynical vision”, “full of second-rate aesthetics”).


Why not just watch a masterpiece by one of the greatest directors of all time instead? (Who was name-checked in Denby’s review, by the way). And probably one you haven’t seen before – this is my favorite Luis Buñuel film – I like this better than Los Olivados, Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Belle de Jour, whatever. Those are technically all better films (and you should see them all immediately if you haven’t already), but Simon is just plain…weird – which is what a Buñuel film is supposed to be, right? It’s unfinished, but it doesn’t even matter – the tacked-on-at-the-last-minute surprise shock ending is somehow perfect. Anyway, I’m not a film critic and don’t pretend to be able to write like one, but this movie uses the most important special effects known to man – great writing, acting and cinematography, all in gorgeous, dream-like black and white (ok, and a little stop-motion). Never mind if you can figure out when Simon’s hallucinating or not – you’ll feel like you’re hallucinating while you’re watching this. The movie’s themes include spirituality, religion, lust, materialism, temptation, etc. All in 45 minutes. And did I mention that it’s absolutely laugh-out-loud hilarious?

I present to you, our first “Friday Night at the Movies” feature, Luis Buñuel’s “Simon of the Desert.”

NOTE: sadly, Youtube has pulled the full version. You can check it out on Hulu, I think. Some of my favorite moments:

“You see that?”
“The thing with the hands?”
“Oh yeah. Got any bread?”

The Jerry-Lewis lookalike skipping priest…and Satan’s legs…and the mystery of the tasty morsels. The bearded lady Jesus kicking the lamb…

And here’s the incredible finish, with one of the best shock endings of all time…(in other words, they ran out of money and had to figure out some quick way to wrap things up; I don’t think they could have done any better if they let the film run another 45 minutes, but I suppose we’ll never know). And check out Satan’s ride…

BTW, the awesome band at the end is Los Sinners. According to Federico Arana, Los Sinners guitar player: “Buñuel needed a place for the final scene and end up in Café Milleti where, fortunately, we were playing. Don Luis asked us to play “extreme” rock. I asked him if he wanted something with lyrics or just instrumental and he said instrumental, but but very loud. He meant sinister and bestial sound. I offered “Rebelde Radioactivo” and he not only thought if was good, he also wanted to put this name to the movie. The bad thing was that Gustavo Alatriste the producer, said “no way”, ’cause he would have to pay more money for copyright and things were not ok for that. Things where not OK as the movie had to be suddenly suspended and it could not be a full length presentation. Anyway, he left traces in dialogues of his intention.”


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1 thought on “Inception Antidote – Luis Buñuel’s "Simon of the Desert"

  1. Inception is among one of those films that “engaged” film-goers will mistake for genius. Let me explain my theory on people and movies. There are actually three types of movie-watchers: passive, engaged, and intelligently engaged. Passive people will enjoy Die Another Day and like it just as much as the Bourne Identity. They don’t really go to the movies to think, they go to be entertained by cool effects and witty one-liners. Engaged people think they are fully aware what they’re talking about, and usually really like movies that happen to be edgy in plot and execution but conventional enough to understand, like Fight Club and the subject of this review. They presume themselves to be refined in cinema, but ,in reality, just don’t quite have the intellect, cinematically speaking, to pull it off. Intelligently engaged people will appreciate the complexity of Inception, but also recognize it truly is a little sloppy, self-serious, over drawn, and empty. They recognize its audacity, but don’t pretend like it is Kubrick or Paul Thomas Anderson. Suffice it to say, most people who fit into the engaged category will try and pretend that Inception is a ‘masterpiece’ and that they know everything about movies. They don’t. Inception is clever, but it doesn’t rank anything above decent.The idea is ingenious, and Inception is capable of live off its sheer mind-bendiness for the first 45 minutes. Leo is a specialist at entering people’s minds and extracting, or in this case, planting information. The dreamworld is very exciting and unpredictable, that the audience couldn’t care less regarding the actual story line. Sad to say,when the magic wears off and the extravagantly overlong climax starts (almost at the midway point), as Chinua Achebe says, things break apart. The first problem is the eventual goal of the whole operation is seriously anti- climactic. As far as I could tell, they’re trying to break up some imprecise monopolistic multi-national company for a rich CEO, who subsequently will give them large sums of money and Leo a way back to his kids. Sound under-developed? It is. Nolan by no means really fleshes it out. He is too busy creating spectacularly slick effects to get caught up in silly things like crucial plot points.

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