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Tristana

Release Year:         1970
Studio:         Cohen Film Collection
Format:         Colour; NTSC; Blu-ray
Rated:         PG-13 Thematic elements and some disturbing images
# of Discs:        1
Running Time:         99 minutes + extras
DVD Release Date:         March 12, 2013
Creator:        Luis Bunuel
Screenwriters:         Julio Alejandro, Luis Bunuel
Director:         Luis Bunuel
Actors:         Catherine Deneuve, Fernando Rey, Franco Nero
Blu-ray Features:         DTS-HD Master Audio; Audio Commentary; Alternate Ending; Visual Essay Featurette;
2012 Restoration Trailer; Original French Theatrical Trailer; in Spanish with English Subtitles; English Dubbed Track
E:Top Picks Rating:         8/10

Cohen Media Group Write-up:
Luis Bunuel’s singular career began with the silent surrealist landmarks Un Chien Andalou and L’Age d’Or and continued for nearly 50 years, during which he created such masterpieces as Viridiana, The Exterminating Angel, Nazarin, Diary of a Chambermaid and Belle de Jour. Bunuel, who frequently skewered organized religion and authority in all its forms, spent years in exile from his native Spain, making movies for decades in Mexico, then France. TRISTANA, made in 1970 back in his homeland, began the string of films that marked his final flowering of genius: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, The Phantom of Liberty and That Obscure Object of Desire.

TRISTANA is based on the novel by Benito Perez Galdos, Spain’s leading novelist and playwright of the 19th century, but the daring Bunuel makes the story his own. After the death of her mother, beautiful young Tristana (Oscar nominee Catherine Deneuve, Belle de Jour, Repulsion, in one of her favorite roles) goes to live with Don Lope Garrido (Fernando Rey, That Obscure Object of Desire, The French Connection). Her new guardian, is an impoverished, freethinking nobleman, who may have also been an old flame of Tristana’s mother, but whatever paternal feelings he may have for the poor girl are no match for his lust for her. He quickly makes her his lover, but as she grows older, Tristana starts finding her own voice and demands to study music, art and other subjects with which she wishes to become independent.

She falls in love with a young artist, Horacio (Frano Nero, Django Unchained, the original Django), and leaves Don Lope to live with him. But Tristana falls seriously ill and returns to Don Lope, who is now rich from an inheritance. Their strange relationship now takes a drastic turn as the bitter Tristana begins to take revenge on the aging, weakened man who stole her innocence.

Reviewing TRISTANA upon its original 1970 release, The New York Times’ Vincent Canby said, “On this simple tale, Bunuel has made a marvelously complex, funny and vigorously moral movie that also is, to me, his most perfectly cast film.” More recently, Roger Ebert, in praising TRISTANA, said, “In the late flowering of his work in his 70s, Bunuel became undoubtedly the dirtiest old man of genius the cinema has ever produced.”

TRISTANA was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award and won numerous awards in Spain.

This restored version of the film was released theatrically to great acclaim in 2012 by Cohen Media Group, which is embarking on an ambitious plan to restore many other Hollywood and foreign classics from its vast library of more than 700 titles.

Jon Ted Wynne Review:
There is no contesting Luis Bunuel’s place as one of the most esteemed directors of world cinema. As with any director who has made his mark by being a provocateur, he is an acquired taste. For this reviewer, Bunuel has stood on the periphery of appreciation ever since he was sickened by the slicing of the eyeball (belonging to a dead calf but made to look like that of a young woman) in his ground-breaking early film Un Chien Andalou. Cinematic manipulation is as old as cinema itself but there is good taste and there is bad taste–or at least heavy-handedness as in the more saccharine of Hollywood’s Spielbergian output.

The appeal of TRISTANA for the Bunuel uninitiated is simply the film’s beauty. This alone is cause enough to celebrate this meticulous restoration of Bunuel’s 1970-released film. The sumptuous colours remind of the gaudy Technicolor of Douglas Sirk’s best work from the 1950s. Suggesting the pallete of an artist, (such as the one Franco Nero plays in the film), Bunuel’s eye for colour, detail and symbolism never waivers. In this sense he is an absolute master. The way even the majority of outdoor scenes mirror the claustrophobic existence of Tristana herself is artful, yet discernible.

The best thing about the visual beauty of this film is that it is centred around one of the most beautiful faces to ever appear on screen, namely that of Catherine Deneuve, who starred in several of Bunuel’s films during her career. Deneuve’s beauty is ethereal, and she can act, though at times she appears a little stilted in TRISTANA. Her most exquisite feature is her luminous eyes, expressive and soulful. The other performances are uneven, though Fernando Rey and Franco Nero acquit themselves well. It is some of the supporting roles that come across as amateurish and forced, as in some of Rossellini’s films (when he often used non-actors in his pursuit of Neo-Realism). Whether this is intentional or not, is not clear. It may well be intended, though, to complement Bunuel’s heightened visual style which is anything but naturalistic and entirely suggestive of a dream, or at least an allegory. That is to say, acting that appears to be acting may be what Bunuel wanted, not unlike Brecht’s alienation techniques on stage.

Bunuel is often cited as a filmmaker who “skewered religion and other forms of authority,” and while some disparaging remarks about the church are made in TRISTANA, it is hardly worth mentioning. What IS worth mentioning is that this preoccupation in Bunuel’s world-view appears to have tapered off later in his life. It seems Bunuel was less against God than he was against guilt, which was a reaction to his upbringing. A reassessment of Bunuel’s stand on matters of faith is perhaps better represented by the observation by Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes who wrote that Bunuel possessed a “religious temperament without a religious faith.” Perhaps he matured as he aged.

In short, though an intellectual, Bunuel was a simple man, his simplicity mirrored in his art. His shooting style was notoriously straight-forward, which saved time in the editing room and reduced the opportunity for outside interference. He had a vision and he pursued it as purely and as plainly as he could.

If TRISTANA is representative of Bunuel’s work it is definitely worth watching. Critics far and wide have praised the film mightily. While the film’s attributes may not be apparent to everyone, this gorgeous restoration by the Cohen Film Collection ensures each viewer’s journey of evaluation will be an aesthetically pleasing one.

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