That Obscure Object of Desire was Luis Buñuel’s last film in 1977 after a very long career. His career started in 1929 with the classic surrealistic short film Un Chien Andalou. That Obscure… was one of his most critically successful films where it got nominated for numerous awards including a Oscar noms for “Best Foreign Language Film” and “Best Adapted Screenplay”. It stars Fernando Rey who worked frequently with Buñuel during the 60s and 70s. It was also based on the novel “The Women and the Puppet” by Pierre Louÿs which has been adapted many times to film, That Obscure… was the 5th and final to date.
It tells the story of a middle age wealthy French man Mathieu (Fernando Way) and meets Conchita (played by both Carole Bouquet AND Ángela Molina). They start a dysfunctional romance to say the least against the backdrop of terrorist bombings in France and Spain. The film starts with Mathieu getting on a train, Conchita is running towards the train and he pays a train worker to get a bucket of water and he dumps it on her and he believes their relationship is finished but she sneaks on.
Mathieu meets a group of people a midget, a friend of cousin, a mother and her daughter on the train. He tells them his’ story of their extremely complicated relationship. The flashbacks consist of Mathieu trying to screw Conchita (who claims to be a Virgin) and failing miserably by escalating absurd reasons why they can’t have sex and the reasons and at one point she wears a pair of tightly laced canvas shorts to protect her groin region.
The film as always expected with Buñuel is a wonderfully twisted satire on the Bourgeoisie, Religion, Sex and Politics. It’s rip roaringly funny as places and one of the most astute films on the games women play on men. Fernando Ray is great even though his lines are actually dubbed by Michael Piccoli but his sense of being madly in love, frustration and despair is obvious despite this. Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina are also great as Conchita, the beautiful but totally wicked girl of his dreams.
The film is also one of his least surreal films. However it’s got very subtle surrealist touches such as the randomness of a dwarf in Michael’s train cabin, the use of 2 actresses, a woman carrying a pig like a baby.
It’s a wonderfully twisted end of the career of one cinema’s true artists and originals. It may not be the best starting point for a new person to Buñuel (something like The Exterminating Angel would be more fitting). I think any man can relate to the Mathieu and it’s a true classic at this point. It has been recently reissued as part of the StudioCanal collection on Blu-Ray.