Luis Buñuel (Portolés)

Biographical Information
black and white photograph of Luis Bunuel (Portoles)
Name

Luis Buñuel (Portolés)

Birth

February 22, 1900 , Calanda, Spain

Death

July 29, 1983, Mexico City, Mexico

Country of Origin/Citizenship

Spain/ Spanish (later Mexican in 1949)

Kind of Artist/Cultural Worker

filmmaker

Avant-Garde Movements Associated With

Surrealism

Date & Places of Overlap with Loy

January 1932, Paris

Born on February 22, 1900 to Leonardo Buñuel and María Portolés, Luis Buñuel was raised in Calanda, Spain where he acquired a Jesuit education. He later rejected this upbringing when he discovered the “terrifying gap between the rich security of the church and the destitute, precarious state…of the Spanish people” (Harcourt 4). At La Residencia de Estudiantes (an educational institution in Madrid) Buñuel distanced himself from his Christian roots through intellectual collaborations with fellow Spanish artists such as Salvador Dalí and Federico Garcia Lorca. However, Buñuel grew weary of the “educated bourgeois elite and [La Residencia de Estudiantes’] English-style education” (Aranda 28) and sought refuge in Paris in 1925.

In Paris, filmmaker Don Pedro Azcarate took on Buñuel as his protégé and immersed him in Surrealist culture. While Parisian Surrealists applauded his work, extreme rightists often condemned it. At the premiere of L’Âge d’Or on December 3, 1930, a group of rightist youths attacked the Parisian theatre resulting in police banning the film in Paris (Buñuel 118).

The ban on L’Âge d’Or in France stagnated Buñuel’s career until a representative from Metro Goldwyn Myer (who had viewed the film in a private projection suite) offered Buñuel the opportunity to expand his technical skills in Hollywood. Buñuel accepted the offer in 1930, but he soon resented the internship after a verbal disagreement with actress Greta Garbo. He resigned from his position with MGM and returned to Paris in 1931.

After World War II, Buñuel reentered the film industry as a director in Mexico, creating Los Olvidados with the help of Oscar Dancigers in 1950. Although this film was successful, it began an era in which Buñuel lacked control over his projects, which critics described as “a kind of artistic fatigue” (Harcourt 12). Nonetheless, Buñuel is iconically remembered by “his implacable labor of disorientating and bringing despair to those who for very good reason [detested] him; and of keeping faith with those who, like himself, [loved]” (Aranda 250).

L’Âge d’Or’s controversy intrigued Mina Loy and prominent art gallery owner Julien Levy who viewed the film at a Parisian underground cinema in 1932. Loy adored Buñuel’s unrepentant production for the conflict it generated between the extreme right and Parisian Surrealists. Influenced by Loy’s plea to introduce the film to American audiences, Levy premiered the film at the Essex House on March 19, 1932 to the Film Society of New York (Izurieta).

After premiering the film, Levy allegedly reported to Loy, “Presenting L’Âge d’Or was most exciting. We didn’t know if our show would be the success of the year, or if we would be run out of town” (Schaffner 37). The anti-bourgeoisie, surrealist film gained America’s attention due to its sensationalized shock factor. The positive response from New York’s artistic elite earned Buñuel the critical acclaim he deserved in North America.

Works Cited

Aranda, Francisco. Luis Buñuel: A Critical Biography. Da Capo Press, 1976.


Buñuel, Luis. My Last Sigh. Alfred A. Kopf, 1983.


Harcourt, Peter. “Luis Buñuel: Spaniard and Surrealist.” Film Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 3, 1967, pp. 2-19. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1210106.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A85af3c 318295fd72bf685ba4394be7a5. Accessed 15 September 2017.


Izurieta, Ibon. “Performativity in Buñuel’s ‘The Phantom of Liberty’ and ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.” The Modern Language Review, vol. 103, no. 3, 2008, pp. 753-66. JSTOR,http://www.jstor.org.proxyremote.galib.uga.edu/stable/pdf/20467910.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Ab72b3337a340423f7117bad167e83c1a. Accessed 14 September 2017.


Schaffner, Ingrid. Julien Levy: Portrait of an Art Gallery. The MIT Press, 1998, pp. 20-59. Ingrid Schaffner-An Index of Selected Writing and Published Works,https://ingridschaffner.com/1998/08/alchemy-of-the-gallery/. Accessed 20 November 2017.


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