8 March 2021

Luis Buñuel's Tristana (1970)

Buñuel's Tristana is based on Benito Pérez Galdós's eponymous novel (1892), although it's set in Toledo in the 1920s. It stars Catherine Deneuve as Tristana, the young woman whose parents have died and Fernando Rey as her aristocratic uncle and guardian: both of their voices are dubbed into Spanish.* Lope also thinks he owns her and he takes advantage of her innocence by having sex with her. (Of course, the anarchist Buñuel again takes pot shots at any 'respectable' institutions he can, and even Lope foils the police by misdirecting them from the scent of an 'unfortunate' thief.)

Aided by the servant Saturna (Lola Gaos), Tristana breaks her uncle's rules of virtual house arrest to explore the streets of Toledo. The inevitable happens and Tristana runs away from Toledo with her young lover Horiacio (Franco Nero). But there are more things in life than Horacio can dream of and in a few years the couple return to Toledo, Tristana having an extremely painful leg. This is amputated and the course of Tristana's life, in fact much of her psychology, changes and she returns to Lope to marry him.

However, she refuses to sleep with him. And his health declines so sharply that one night he is in agony, close to death. Tristana pretends to call the doctor, and seeing that he is unconscious she opens the window where it's snowing heavily and Lope dies.

*Deneuve surely sets something of a precedent for an original film as her voice is also entirely dubbed in (sung) French in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg: there is only dubbing when she bursts into song in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort.

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