The Film (5/5)
There are not enough Luis Bunuel films on Blu-ray, and by not enough I mean "When can we get a complete films of Bunuel box set?" However, almost any Bunuel is better than zero, and in fact this month Criterion has released what is arguably Bunuel's finest film 1962's The Exterminating Angel. A film that continued Bunuel's post return to Spain trend of satirizing the Franco regime, and the Church in such ways, they probably wished he hadn't come back.
The Exterminating Angel takes place largely in one location, the entertainment room of an upscale mansion. Lucia and Edmundo Nobile host a party for their bourgeoisie friends, after a somewhat eventful dinner they retire to said entertainment room for drinks and dessert. The party continues long into the night with the group beginning to sit on the floor, and not removing themselves from the room. They soon discover that for reasons beyond their control they are unable to leave. This presents unique conditions. They have no water or food, and most somehow fend for themselves by destroying piping within the wall, and eating the sheep and bears on the property of the home that stumble in the room.
The prior year's Viridiana was Bunuel's first film back in his homeland after a long departure to Mexico after the takeover of General Franco. That film was a huge indictment of the Catholic Church. The Exterminating Angel does not in anyway leave that institution alone, however along with it, it also does a satiric takedown of upscale rich citizens of Spain who lived comfortably under General Franco. In Bunuel's film these people are reduced to savages. However, in Bunuel's pointed worldview no one is left off the hook, and in the film's concluding moments he takes down the "sheep" who stayed in line during that period.
Bunuel never lets things truly up, and though the characters are targets of derision and occasionally do dark things he never fully dehumanizes them to the point that the audience can disassociate from them. The performances across the board are truly wonderful. Bunuel, of course, brings his trademark surrealism to the film with odd moments like a bear crawling up the walls of the house.
The Exterminating Angel comes to Blu-ray via Criterion with a splendid 1:33:! 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks fantastic with excellent fine detail, very good blacks, and fine contrast levels. There is some minor softness, but overall it is a fine upgrade from their prior DVD edition.
The audio is presented with an LPCM 1.0 mono track in Spanish. The track is quite good for the most part. Clarity is fine though oddly I did detect some hissing, which I found odd for a Criterion release, but I guess it couldn't be helped.
Criterion has included a documentary called the Last Script Remembering Luis Bunuel, an interview with Silvia Pinal, and one with Auturo Ripstein. We also get a booklet of liner notes and a trailer.
Two of my big wants on the arthouse side of the Blu-ray format were Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight and Bunuel's Exterminating Angel. Criterion nailed those in 2016. This Blu-ray looks and sounds fabulous, and has a nice slate of extras. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.