Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
France/Spain, 1977. Greenwich Film Productions, Les Films Galaxie, In-Cine Compañía Industrial Cinematográfica. Scenario by Luis Bunuel, collaboration with Jean-Claude Carriere, inspired by the book La Femme et le Pantin by Pierre Louys. Cinematography by Edmond Richard. Produced by Serge Silberman. Production Design by Pierre Guffroy. Costume Design by Sylvie de Segonzac. Film Editing by Helene Plemiannikov. Academy Awards 1977. Golden Globe Awards 1977. New York Film Critics Awards 1977.
Luis Bunuel’s kinky sense of eroticism showed no signs of going anywhere in his later years, and was still in full swing when he made his final film. Fernando Rey plays a prominent lawyer who pours a bucket of water on a pretty young woman before boarding a train. His fellow passengers are fascinated at his behaviour and inquire as to the reasoning behind it, and so he spins a tale about his obsessive love affair with a chambermaid and the rings he danced around her in order to secure her affection (and, finally, her physical submission to him). Bunuel couldn’t be more of a devilishly sly storyteller if we begged him, and here he outdoes himself by outrageously casting Carole Bouquet as the woman in question in her cold, formal scenes, and sensual Ángela Molina as the same woman when she’s on fire. The device works thanks to the greatest ever filmmaker handling it so well, and the story is a fascinating tale of desire, obsession and manipulation. The novel by Pierre Louys that it is based on, La Femme Et Le Pantin, was also the inspiration for the Marlene Dietrich-Josef von Sternberg collaboration The Devil Is A Woman.