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Viridiana (The Criterion Collection)

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Banned in Spain and denounced by the Vatican, Luis Bunuel's hilarious vision of life as a beggar's banquet is regarded by many as his masterpiece. In it, the young novice Viridiana does her utmost to maintain her Catholic principles, but her lecherous uncle and a motley assemblage of paupers force her to confront the limits of her idealism. Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival, this anticlerical free-for-all is as shocking today as ever.


While its so-called "blasphemies" have been tamed by the passage of time, Luis Buñuel's Viridiana remains a masterpiece for the ages. After 22 years in Mexico and the United States, Buñuel returned to his native Spain in 1961 with dictator Franco's permission to make any film he wanted, pending the approval of censors. Inspired by a minor saint named Viridiana and an erotic fantasy about making love to the Queen of Spain after drugging her, Buñuel proceeded to combine these elements into a characteristically provocative scenario about Viridiana (Silvia Pinal), a young woman about to become a nun, who leaves her convent to visit the decaying estate of her uncle, Don Jaime (Fernando Rey), an eccentric widower who's immediately taken with Viridiana's close resemblance to his dead wife. Jaime's aborted attempt to seduce Viridiana (and his subsequent suicide) sets the film's second half in motion, as Viridiana assuages her guilt by turning Don Jaime's estate into a haven for the dispossessed--quite literally a "beggar's banquet" that culminates in one of the most indelible images in all of Buñuel: a staged recreation of da Vinci's "The Last Supper," with a cast of itinerant peasants as "disciples" in Buñuel's new world order--a cutting response to backward notions of progress.

Like any great film, Viridiana reveals its depth and detail through multiple viewings. The film is scathingly critical of Catholic hypocrisy and Franco's Spain (Don Jaime's estate is a direct reflection of the country's moribund state of sociopolitical decay), and its allegorical content was not lost on Spanish authorities, who banned the film (it wasn't shown in Spain until 1977) after it won the coveted Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In a closing stroke of genius, Buñuel skirted around his censors with a final scene even more provocative (in its subtle implications) than the sexually suggestive ending he'd originally filmed. With much to say about the conflicting nature of human desires, Viridiana may have softened over decades, but it's never lost its ability to spark debate, discussion, and rewarding analysis of Buñuel's directorial vision. --Jeff Shannon

On the DVD
The newly restored, high-definition digital transfer of Viridiana impressively maintains Criterion's exacting standards of audio-visual quality; it's a flawless transfer, with deep blacks and richly detailed clarity. The supplements include new (2006) video interviews with actress Silvia Pinal and Spanish cultural scholar Richard Porton; warmly revealing excerpts from the 1964 French TV series "Cineastes of Our Times," featuring an interview with Buñuel; and a 30-page booklet with an essay on Viridiana by Princeton film scholar Michael Wood, and a generous interview excerpt from the book Objects of Desire: Conversations with Luis Buñuel. --Jeff Shannon

Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • New video interviews with actress Silvia Pinal and Cineaste editor and author Richard Porton
  • Excerpts from a 1964 episode of "Cineastes de notre temps" on Luis Bunuel's early career
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • 28-page booklet with a new essay by author and film historian Michael Wood and an archival interview with Luis Bunuel
  • Trailer

Product Details

  • Actors: Silvia Pinal, Fernando Rey, Francisco Rabal, José Calvo, Margarita Lozano
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel
  • Writers: Luis Buñuel, Benito Pérez Galdós, Julio Alejandro
  • Producers: Gustavo Alatriste, Pere Portabella, Ricardo Muñoz Suay
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: May 23, 2006
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000C8Q900
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #53,046 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Viridiana (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Another great thing in the Viridiana DVD is the wonderful extras they included.
Daniel Bradette
Buñuel demonstrates how Christian charity leads to the creation of false desires which can never be fulfilled, the average man always wanting more.
Film Buff
Technically, Viridiana is a perfect film, odd and enigmatic behind the seeming simplicity.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Galina on October 22, 2006
Format: DVD
*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

The controversial satire was banned by the Spanish government for obscenity and blasphemy after it had received the Golden Palm at the 1961 Cannes Film Festival. Viridiana of the title is a young nun (Mexican actress Silvia Penal) who is assigned by her mother superior to visit her widowed uncle Don Jaime (Fernando Rey) on his farm just before taking her final vows. Viridiana reluctantly agrees to meet with her uncle whom she never knew but who has supported her financially all these years. Don Jaime is obsessed by her cool virginal blond beauty and he sees her as reincarnation of his bride who died thirty years ago on their wedding night. Bunuel gives some of his own sexual fantasies, fetishes, and dreams that he freely admits to Don Jaime thus making him more human. Viridiana winds up as a farm owner along with her uncle's illegitimate son, Jorge (Francisco Rabal, humble and spiritual Nazarin of "Nazarin" here plays absolutely different man). Viridiana, following the great traditions of mad Spaniards, originated by Cervantes and continued by Nazarin, takes seriously great ideas and tries to live accordingly when she attempts to make the farm a heaven for local homeless beggars. Viridiana is a woman of virtue but all her good intentions lead nowhere. I am not surprised that the film was banned and all copies were ordered to be destroyed (Silvia Penal in her interview recalls the dramatic story of two copies of the film that were saved and buried, so they could wait for the better times), I am surprised how Bunuel was able to make this super dark dramedy about the inability of the Catholic Church to deal with the realities of the world at all in his native Spain when Franco was still in power.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dean A. Anderson on November 20, 2010
Format: DVD
Most films that attack the Christian faith take a safer route than "Viridiana". Many films, "Elmer Gantry" for example, attack the clergy. Well, most Christians are more than willing to admit that all have sinned and more than a few scoundrels have abused their roles as evangelists, pastors and priests. Some filmmakers (such as the Pythons when they publicized "The Life of Brian") claim that they have no problem with faith itself, just with "organized religion". But I see very little virtue in the apparent alternative, "chaotic religion."
But "Viridiana", filmed in Spain in 1961 by acclaimed writer/director Luis Buñuel takes a much bolder stand. It attacks Christianity on the grounds that acts of charity and compassion are futile and without worth.
The film tells the story of a young novice (the Silvia Pinal ably plays the title character) who is instructed by her Mother Superior to visit her uncle before she takes her vows. She has up until then had little contact with the uncle who financially supported her.
She obeys and visits her uncle (played by Fernando Rey) at his vast but decaying estate, and finds him to be a man of rather depraved tastes. He tells Viridiana that she reminds him of his late wife and asks the much younger woman to marry him. When she refuses him, he drugs her coffee and takes advantage of her (to an unclear degree.) After this incident, the uncle kills himself because of his guilt.
Viridiana learns she has inherited her uncle's estate, but it is to be shared with her uncle's illegitimate son, Jorge. Like his father, Jorge, is a man who pursues pleasure above all else.
Viridiana decides to open the estate to the poor in the village, inviting the blind, the crippled and the destitute.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luc REYNAERT on June 1, 2013
Format: DVD
While `Viridiana' contains some well known aspects of L. Buñuel's movies, like fetishism or voyeurism, its main target is, like in `L'Age D'Or', religion and more particularly Catholicism with its gospel of pity and altruism. This gospel is personified in an aspirant-nun, played sublimely by the Mexican actress Silvia Pinal. But, faced with utterly disgraceful behavior on the part of the poor people she wanted to help, she becomes on the tones of Haendel's music an anti-Messiah.

For the Catholic Church this movie is fundamentally a blasphemy, symbolized by its hellish parody of the Last Supper (the picture by Leonardo Da Vinci) with the apostles painted as vile and vicious paupers and beggars.
Another of L. Buñuel's more controversial viewpoints is his misogyny expressed by Don Jaime's illegitimate son, Jorge: `all cats are grey at night'.

With a formidable casting, Silvia Pinal being the jewel of the team, this movie didn't lose even a shadow of its subversive bite at Christian morality.
A must see for all lovers of world cinema.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By robert p. on January 13, 2014
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Although I've never been a fan of Bunuel, the description of the story in the ad got me intrigued. It wasn't what I expected to
see, but I'm glad that I stuck to it till the end. The ending has a very erotic twist to it. I didn't care much for the movie but I
loved the ending. Shows not only what a great imagination Bunuel had, but also how cleverly he evaded the Franco sensors.
You'll get this and many other details that make the movie worth watching again, from the commentary track.
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Viridiana (The Criterion Collection)
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