An animation directed by Salvador Simó. In Spanish and French, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable
This (mostly) animated tale of Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel working around Spain’s incipient fascism and his own poverty at the start of the 1930s resembles nothing from the land of Disney. But there are some connections. Paris-based writer-director Salvador Simó has done visual effects for Uncle Walt efforts like Prince of Persia and The Jungle Book.
Buñuel got his cinematic start alongside fellow surrealist Salvador Dalí in the shocking 1929 short “Un Chien Andalou”, followed by L’Age d’Or, which vehemently attacked the Catholic church. The subsequent outcry almost ruined Buñuel (voiced here by Jorge Usón), but Dalí walked away and went on to a kitschadelic career that included designing scenes for Alfred Hitchcock, Vincente Minnelli, and even Disney—although that last was shelved, along with a proposed collaboration with the Marx Brothers!
Named after a village constructed from shale tiles, Labyrinth limits itself to Buñuel’s struggles to make his only documentary, about the poorest people of well-named Extremadura.
The director was able to do this because anarchist pal Ramón Acín (Fernando Ramos) bought a winning lottery ticket. During their hinterland adventure, the director exercised his cruelty on a donkey and some hapless goats, while showing kindness towards the villagers.
Drawn in the flat, elegant style of the graphic novel on which it’s based, the smart 80-minute effort explores Buñuel’s ambivalence towards his Jesuit upbringing and the bizarre wit that would serve him well right through the 1970s, capping his career with still-relevant winners such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.
It’s a measure of how much influence he had that the surrealistic dream scenes here are the only boring bits. See it!