I’VE NOW HAD occasion in two of my last three appearances in COMMENTARY to mention the work of Luis Bunuel as a mark by which to measure the shortcomings of those films under discussion. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I’ve been somewhat reluctant to discuss in itself Bunuel’s new film, Tristana. I am not among those who believe the best criticism springs always from admiration, but neither do I particularly enjoy writing about the failures of those artists about whom I care most. Of course, Tristana is in many ways an admirable work; masterly in the surgical precision of its style and in its elaboration of a dense network of significant detail; and its failure, if it can indeed be called this, of only the most intangible and ultimate kind. And yet, the failure seems to me a crucial one, and one endemic to Bunuel’s most recent work, possibly, by its nature, to remain so. And so finally, just because there are few whose work in films I value as much as I do Bunuel’s, the subject is one I don’t want to turn away from.
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