The Exterminating Angel

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Luis Buñuel’s final Mexican feature, signaling the dawn of his nouveau “French Period,” is a brilliantly savage, hilariously droll and hypnotically surreal assault on bourgeois mores, set on one of the filmmaker’s favorite social stages: the dinner party. The Exterminating Angel takes place in a lavish mansion, where the well-appointed guests arrive to attend a posh dinner soiree. After a pleasant evening spent whispering behind each other’s backs, ruthlessly judging each other and plotting infidelities, the guests attempt to depart, but find that they are mysteriously unable to leave the living room – despite the fact that the doorway is completely open and nothing bars their exit. A night stretches into days, then weeks and months, and the captives turn against each other as their veneer of civility gives way to outrageous carnal depravity exposing their true ugliness. Quarrels, hysteria and hallucinations run rampant. Water is scarce, a sheep is killed for food, furniture is burned and the high society revelers dabble in witchcraft, adultery and even games of death. It’s some dinner party. Playing out his madly surreal scenario with marvelously unassuming logic, Buñuel revels in the wicked fun of stripping away his characters’ last shreds of “civilized” propriety as they are reduced to a barbarically absurd existence that is nasty, brutish and quite maddening. Providing inspiration for Jean-Luc Godard’s Weekend, The Exterminating Angel is a hysterical revolt against oppressive civilization and all its willing victims. (Dir. by Luis Buñuel, 1962, Mexico, in Spanish with subtitles, 95 mins., Not Rated) Digital