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That Obscure Object of Desire (The Criterion Collection)

4.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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(Nov 20, 2001)
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The Criterion Collection
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Editorial Reviews

A middle-aged man is forever humiliated by his girl.
Genre: Foreign Film - French
Rating: UN
Release Date: 20-NOV-2001
Media Type: DVD

Special Features

  • New high-definition transfer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Video interview with screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere
  • Excerpts from Jacques de Baroncelli's 1929 silent La Femme et le Pantin, an alternative adaptation of the novel on which Luis Buñuel based his film
  • Reprinted interview with director Luis Buñuel

Product Details

  • Actors: Fernando Rey, Carole Bouquet, Ángela Molina, Julien Bertheau, André Weber
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel
  • Writers: Luis Buñuel, Jean-Claude Carrière, Pierre Louÿs
  • Producers: Serge Silberman
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • 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:
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 20, 2001
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005QAPJ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,916 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "That Obscure Object of Desire (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 1, 2002
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Luis Bunuel's last film . . . and he checked out with a masterpiece. It's the fifth adaptation of a torrid novel written in 1898 called *La Femme et le Pantin* (The Woman and the Puppet). The only famous version, besides this one, is 1935's *The Devil is a Woman* starring -- who else? -- Marlene Dietrich. In *That Obscure Object of Desire*, Fernando Rey is bedevilled by TWO women: in what can only be described as a stroke of genius, Bunuel cast 2 ladies to play the same part of Conchita, a young Spanish flamenco dancer who begins the movie as Rey's housemaid. The considerably different physiognomy of Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina would at first suggest a "light" or "dark" side of Conchita (or a "sophisticated" or "earthy" side -- take your pick). However, each actress is assigned to her respective scenes in a totally arbitrary manner: both run hot and cold with Rey. The CHARACTER is the same, no matter which actress plays her . . . which says something about the "objectification" in the title, perhaps. (But only Spanish Molina is allowed to dance the flamenco.) In other words, this interchangeability is more than just another of this director's famous Surrealist touches. Bunuel arrives at deeper truths about how men view women, how men need women, and how any woman will do -- despite, in this case, Mathieu's apparent obsession with one woman. The driving plot-line, which is whether or not Conchita will surrender her virginity to Mathieu, soon turns into circular entropy with no resolution. Which, after all, is the point: desire dies when it's resolved. Bunuel suggests that the sexual drive and its attendant perversities and neuroses never die. (The fact that Mathieu is 60 years old, give or take, is not an accident.) Indeed, desire dies only with death itself, as the film's final shot indicates.
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Format: DVD
Ignore Leonard Maltin; there is not a single act of physical violence intended to arouse, although there's PLENTY of emotional abuse and a pretty harsh expression of rage. This is a movie about how sexual politics, specifically the chase of a woman, can consume a man's life, and how said sexual politics are, in the end, pointless in the context of the wider world. And not only are they pointless, they can be abruptly ended BY the wider world. In light of recent events, that's an excellent lesson to have around.
Of course, this being a movie from the director who gave us "Un Chien Andalou", there are some...offbeat touches. The role of Conchita is played by two actresses, a Frenchwoman and a Spaniard (slightly distracting at first, but once you know their faces, it fades.) A dwarf shows up rather early on. But overall, it's not particularly strange...just bitter. Despite it being his final film, the director's hatred of the idle rich comes through loud and clear.
I highly recommend this, a great, restrained piece from a master.
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Nobody makes films like Luis Bunuel. In this, his last film, he captures the related themes of obsessive desire, frustration, and immaturity perfectly, crafting a wicked black comedy. When a wealthy middle-aged man, played to perfection by Fernando Rey, is entranced by a young girl he has recently hired as one of the maids in his grand mansion, he pursues her obsessively.
The girl is played by two different actresses; here Bunuel is slyly saying to the audience, This man is too (two) distracted, too (two) obsessed. The girl alternately leads him on and crushes his hopes, time after time, yet still the man returns to be alternately entranced and crushed. His actions are ultimately revealed to be far too immature--if nothing else, based on the behavior of the girl--for his age, but he can't help himself.
Simultaneously, a guerilla group plants bombs and blows things up all over the city of Paris where the film is set. The immature need for immediate results, intensified by repeated frustration--typified by both the guerillas and the desperate man--is nowhere revealed in film as dramatically as in That Obscure Object of Desire. The film ends with the convergence of these two entities (the guerillas and the man) in a perfect climax.
The "message"? Not only that you can't always get what you want; more to the point, here is what people do all over the world: want things they don't understand, fail to understand what they want.
Highly recommended. Bunuel is like no other director, ever, and this film is without question one of his best.
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Carole Bouquet is the thinner Conchita who is somewhat severe. Angela Molina is the one who dances and seems more natural.

Jean-Claude Carriere wrote the script. He may be the greatest screenwriter of all time. He has over a hundred credits and some of them are among the best movies ever made. Here's a brief list from those that I have seen: The Ogre (1996), Valmont (1989), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Diary of a Chambermaid (1964).

There's some symbolism in Cet obscur objet du desir. Sometimes Mathieu (Fernando Rey) carries around an old gunny sack. We find out what's in it in the final scene. It represents Conchita's virginity. The terrorists in the background seem rather contemporary although this movie is from 1977. Mathieu is rich and therefore represents the established European society. Conchita and her friends represent the underclass. Both Mathieu and Conchita are really character types. He is the masher, the rake who is always working on a new conquest, although he is somewhat naive. She is the tease who uses her wiles to get what she can from him. Bunuel plays this ancient theme as a burlesque, exaggerating her coyness and his foolishness. The ending may suggest that in some way he has won, or more likely that they are still at a standoff, even while the terrorists escalate the bombings.

The question of why there are two actresses playing Conchita has more to do with Maria Schneider, who originally was cast in the role, but left because of the nudity or because Conchita's character was too contrary, than it has to do with any plot or symbolic necessity.
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