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That Obscure Object of Desire

A gem-like, almost hypnotic, tale of an older man's obsession with a young woman. Loosely based on a 19th century book by Pierre Louys, director Luis Bunuel has updated it and put a good part of the action in Paris. The original was set mainly in Spain.

A gem-like, almost hypnotic, tale of an older man’s obsession with a young woman. Loosely based on a 19th century book by Pierre Louys, director Luis Bunuel has updated it and put a good part of the action in Paris. The original was set mainly in Spain.

Filmed in France in 1929 by Jacques De Baroncelli with Conchita Montenegro, and as a talkie by Josef von Sternberg, The Devil Is a Woman with Marlene Dietrich, plus a modernized one with Brigitte Bardot, The Woman and the Puppet by Julien Duvivier, Bunuel’s version uses only the intrinsic theme.

When Maria Schneider had to be replaced near the beginning of shooting, Bunuel decided to go back to an old idea of using two girls to play the sex object. One is willowy, lovely French actress Carole Bouquet, and the other more earthy and sensual, Hispano dancer Angela Molina. They interchange at will.

The tale is told by a rich, middle-aged man to fellow travellers on a train. Fernando Rey, a Bunuel regular, is expert as the sado-masochistic rich man who falls madly for his inept new maid. She makes promises but never gives in. In Spain she flaunts a young lover, though she later says she never did anything.

Rey is dubbed by a lead French actor, Michel Piccoli, which removes any Hispano romantics. Bunuel’s Oscar-winning The Di; Screenplayeet Charm of the Bourgeoisie was about a group which could never quite sit down to eat. Here a couple can never consummate sexually. Film shows desire accepting any humiliations.

That Obscure Object of Desire

France - Spain

  • Production: Greenwich/Galaxie/In Cine. Director Luis Bunuel; Producer Serge Silberman; Screenplay Luis Bunuel, Jean-Claude Carriere; Camera Edmond Richard; Editor Helene Plemiannikov; Music [none];; Art Director Pierre Guffroy
  • Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1977. Running time: 100 MIN.
  • With: Fernando Rey Carole Bouquet Angela Molina Julien Bertheau Andre Weber Milena Vukotic
  • Music By: