The Film (3.5/5)
Death in the Garden is not one of Luis Bunuel's best film. That being said, even a film that could be called not one of Bunuel's best is still better than 95% of movies released today, so what we have here is still a very good piece of film. Bunuel is one of my favorite director's the films of his I have seen usually have a wonderfully anarchic spirit to them.
Death in the Garden comes from the time when Bunuel left Spain, which was under Franco's regime, and chose to reside in Mexico. The films during this period did not carry that same freewheeling spirit as the ones from the other segments of his career. These films are almost Bunuel restrained, instead of the beautiful chaos of his prior and later films (Viridiana, Un Chien Andalou, Exterminating Angel, etc) we are left something that almost certainly fits squarely into the world of genre filmmaking. Death in a Garden is one of few Bunuel films that can fall into a distinct category, this one being an adventure film.
Death in a Garden tells the story of a revolutionary uprising in a small South American Village. The story is centered around an adventure named Shark(Georges Marchel) who is passing through this village, and in a semi-First Blood fashion is tossed in a cell for a crime he didn't commit. He escapes the prison with the assistance of a local Priest(Michel Piccoli) and finds himself in the middle of a revolution being organized by a group of local diamond miners.
It turns out that the government has recently come down on these miners, and have taken the mine under government control. Being that these people are in the jungle, and job prospects are pretty slim they decide to fight back against the fascist regime. Unfortunately, the revolution doesn't go exactly as planned, and Shark, alongside an old miner(Charles Vanel), his daughter(Michele Girardon), and a local prostitute(Simone Signoret) find themselves running for their lives through the South American jungles.
Microcinema International has chosen to present Death in the Garden with a 1:66:1 HD transfer taken from a 35mm print of the film. The transfer looks quite nice, and colors are outstanding throughout. There are a few moments of ghosting throughout the film, but nothing overly distracting.
Death in the Garden is presented with 2 audio tracks. The default is a stereo track in French, and the other is also a stereo track in Spanish. Both can be considered dubs as the cast consisted entirely of French and Spanish actors, so watching one track leaves about half of the cast dubbed at any given time. That being said the sound is nice and clear, with no distracting background noise anywhere on the track. Optional English subtitles are provided.
Death in the Garden gets a fairly nice package from Microcinema. Included with the DVD is a 12 page booklet with essays on the film by Juan-Luis Bunuel, and film writer Susan Hayward. The DVD itself sports a commentary by film scholar Ernesto R. Acevedo-Munoz, and also features fairly extensive interviews with Michel Piccoli, and Bunuel historian Victor Fuentes. The extras are rounded off by a stills gallery.
While not one of Bunuel's best, Death in the Garden, is still an excellent film. It is a great piece of genre filmmaking from one of the greatest director's in film history, and feels sort of like Wages of Fear in the jungle. If tha sounds interesting to you, then check out this film.
Microcinema International has put together an excellent package for Death in the Garden. The transfer and audio are excellent, and the extras offer a lot of interesting information on this sadly overlooked Bunuel film.