By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Nov 12, 2019
Mild Spoiler Alert
Ask any modern art critic what this medium is about, and you’ll get a variety of answers. It’s either a social call to arms, a reflection of life or nothing at all. Sometimes it’s easier to understand a talent’s work by examining the life and times. Anyone studying early film is likely to come across the works of Luis Buñuel. The animated look of this auteur by Salvador Simó is a captivating analysis and one I had to view a few times.
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles concerns his attempt into the making Las Hurdes (Land Without Bread). The filmmaker was near broke because his last movie (L’Age d’Or) branded him a heretic and he needed a new investor if he’s examining an impoverished region with a higher than usual adoption rate. Also, the medieval conditions he saw was something he had to express (through surreal imagery) to the world through his own profound use of visual shock therapy.
When Buñuel‘s work first screened, it polarized the citizens from here. The mark left many people still talking about it today. The documentary included in this home video release is required viewing. It helps provide information on what is and what isn’t. The insights gave me a broader awareness of what the animated work means.
The choice to use the animation medium is not without some analysis. To revisit the locations may well involve far too much red tape Simó wants to deal with and another may be on who can play Buñuel with the same fire? Not everyone appreciated his bluntness. Even I can’t think of who would be perfect for a live action role. Jorge Usón provides the voice in the animated version and does a highly respectable job.
Parts of the actual documentary are used to give this work its own surreal quality. There’s another reason too, to which I’ll mention at the end because it’s a potential spoiler.
Buñuel is a filmmaker whose work is not tailored for the mainstream. Although he moved to America to serve as a consultant in Hollywood, he was quick to burn bridges. While Labyrinth of the Turtles examines the relationship between him and Ramon Acin (Fernando Ramos da Silva) who helped finance Las Hurdes, hints of what’s coming will no doubt get the curious exploring the filmmakers intentions in his later works. His childhood manifests in dreamlike moments concerning elephants, the Virgin Mary and butterflies.
This piece is much like The Congress. It’s developed in this medium because it’s cost effective to realize the dreamlike sequences. Plus, I’m fairly sure giraffes are very hard to direct.
4 Stars out of 5