As a train from Seville to Paris is about to depart, Matheiu (Fernando Rey), a middle-aged and wealthy Frenchman, pours a bucket of water over the head of a young Spanish woman. He returns to his carriage compartment and is greeted by the shocked faces of his fellow travellers. Not sure of what they have just witnessed, they ask him to explain his actions, Matheiu gladly obliges and begins telling the story of his complex relationship with the young Spanish beauty, Conchita (Carole Bouquet/Ángela Molina).
Looking at the madness and unexplainable obsession that comes, not with love, but desire, Luis Buñuel has created a film that, on a sheer rationality level – and looking from the outside in – is annoyingly frustrating. His genius, however, is that he knows this and intentionally goes out of his way to make the film, and it’s lead, irrational. Matheiu is not the audience, so he is unable to disconnect himself from his feelings and see the bigger picture, as well as the unreasonable actions of his obsession because if he could, he wouldn’t be in the situation he is.
So the fact that we as an audience fail to connect and become annoyed with him is totally warranted and correctly achieved by Buñuel. He’s unhinged with the world, his single-mindedness perfectly represented by the inclusion of how increasingly blasé he becomes about the tragedies that happen around him.
Also worth mentioning, and one of the most distinct features of the film, is the director’s choice to have two actresses play the role of Conchita. Both Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina deliver great performances in the role, but it’s the impact the choice has on the character that makes it so unique. Obviously used to show the two sides of the character but also, once again, to show that in the case of Matheiu, the mind only allows to see what the mind wants. It also helps you approach each scene with a different mind-set considering which version of Conchita shows up.
But now onto the disc, starting with the new 1080p transfer presented in a 1.67:1 aspect ratio. It’s not an incredible transfer by any means but it’s pretty even throughout with significant and obvious enhancements in regards to the colour. They don’t jump of screen but you can tell just by the contrast and image clarity that this is the best the film has ever looked. And the audio is just as solid, it may only be a modest mono track but some time has been taken to give it a polish leaving nothing really to complain about.
As for special features, it’s great to see that the folks over at the StudioCanal Collection are taking the time and putting love into their additional content as once again, they impress with the quality of what we have seen before. They don’t pack these discs full of stuff but what they include is really worth your time checking out – it’s informative, educational, entertaining and well made all at the same time.
We start with a short interview with Spanish director Carlos Saura as he reminisces about the first time he met Luis Buñuel and their lasting friendship. Then we have a 30 minute interview with writer Jean-Claude Carriere as he talks fondly about working with Buñuel on the film as well as the their other collaborations. Next up, and my personal favourite, is an extra called Lady Doubles where both Carole Bouquet and Ángela Molina talk about the experiences on the film and their relationship with the director. Finishing off the extra content is an interesting little feature where cinematographer Edmond Richard and assistant director Pierre Lacy talk about Buñuel’s choice to recast the role of Conchita with two actresses after shooting had already begun on the film.
That Obscure Object of Desire is such a unique experience, and one that sticks with you at that. Personally, it’s taken me a few days to really digest it and see the underpinning qualities that really show you its complexity. Another excellent release from the StudioCanal Connection gets my wholehearted recommendation.