Viridiana (1961)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Viridiana</strong> (1961)

(Kanopy Streaming, October 2018) I’m not saying that there isn’t some potential in a movie taking on religion and rich people as satirical targets. But I’m saying that Viridiana isn’t it—not with its muddled message, punching down to the homeless as objects of scorn, fuzzy dramatic arc and few overriding commitment of cohesion. But then again—it’s from writer/director Luis Bunuel, meaning that consistency may not be the point. The plot, as loosely as it can be called as such, has to do with a noviciate visiting her wealthy uncle, avoiding his seduction, staying at the mansion following his death and the arrival of her half-cousin, trying to morally uplift some vagrants who then trash the mansion, avoiding another sexual assault and then settling into a ménage-a-trois with her half-cousin and a servant. Or something along these lines—I wasn’t exactly paying rapt attention to the film by then. There is some supposedly comic material here (usually mixing piety and vulgarity, such as when the homeless re-create The Last Supper) but it usually feels haughty and forced. I strongly suspect that the different social context matters: The Vatican designated the film as blasphemous, whereas there’s little here that modern audiences would find particularly shocking. (The film itself is still a bit off-putting, what with its multiple instances of sexual assault.) It doesn’t amount to much—Viridiana may have some potential, but it feels obvious and mean today, much of the satirical intention has been stripped away by the decades.

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