(1970)4.5Wheeler Winston DixonThis is a typically brilliant film by Luis Buñuel, with the old master at the top of his late form as a European master. The outlines of Buñuel's career are well known, from the surrealist provocateur (with Salvador Dali) of Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L' Âge d'Or (1930), the brutal documentarian of Las Hurdes (1933), and then a long break from the director's chair while Buñuel busied himself with supervising the Spanish version of mediocre Hollywood films, working at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and then finally packing up and moving to Mexico to restart his career. There, he moved into one of the worst areas of Mexico City, and after two conventional but lightweight entertainments, created Los Olvidados (1950), perhaps the ultimate condemnation of life in the slums, and won Best Director at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival for his efforts, along with numerous other honors. Thereafter, Buñuel was unstoppable, and progressed through a series of violent and hallucinatory films in Mexico in the 1950s and '60s, moving his production base to Spain and then France in the 1970s. Tristana belongs to this last period in Buñuel's career, along with La Voie Lactée (1969) and Belle de Jour (1967). Buñuel regular Fernando Rey (most famous for his role as Alain Charnier, the unscrupulous heroin dealer in William Friedkin's The French Connection ) stars as Don Lope, an aging figure of respectability who becomes the guardian of Tristana (Catherine Deneuve), a young woman with whom he is soon completely smitten. The film is essentially a contest of wills between the two, with Don Lope initially in control, and rapidly losing ground as his sexual obsession overcomes his bourgeois sensibility. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1971, and Buñuel would direct only three more films before his death: Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie (1972), Le Fantôme de la Liberté (1974), and Cet Obscur Objet du Désir (1977). In his old age, Buñuel mellowed, but never lost his bite; these final films are the works of a master at the peak of his powers, still defiantly making films to please only one person: himself.