The Exterminating Angel

Movie Information

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present The Exterminating Angel at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com
Score:

Genre: Surreal Allegorical Comedy Drama
Director: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Silvia Pinal, Enrique Rambal, Claudio Brook, José Baviera, Augusto Benedico
Rated: NR

Viewers wondering whatever became of that suggestion made that Luis Buñuel make a certain movie in Midnight in Paris should check out The Exterminating Angel (1962). This is the film being referenced, and it’s one of Buñuel’s best and most corrosive works. Buñuel himself tells us that there is no reasonable explanation to this film, and while that may be true as concerns its basic premise, the film is rich with both political and personal allegory. The idea is that a group of society people attend a fancy dinner party—though perhaps a peculiar one, since the hostess has planned amusements involving a tame bear and a couple of sheep. When it comes time to leave, the guests find themselves unable to leave the room. At first this seems to be something like an inexplicable, yet conscious choice, as they all decide to settle in for the night in the music room rather than break up the party. By morning, however, it becomes obvious that they are trapped—not physically trapped by any obvious means, just unable to leave. In fact, this situation seems to afflict anyone who walks into the room, since the head butler—the only servant who didn’t disappear before the party—comes in and is also trapped. With no one seemingly able to enter the house—much less the room—from the outside, the partygoers’ plight soon becomes a kind of media sensation. As hunger and panic set in, the social order deteriorates and the guests grab at religion or magic to help, but to no avail. There is so much going on here—an examination of the helplessness of the rich without their servants, an attack on the bourgeois elite of Franco’s Spain, a satire on the futility of religion—that it’s impossible to really get very far into the film in the space of this review. Let me just say this is a wickedly designed, satirical and quite possibly dangerous work. In other words, it’s something you should see.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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