Simon of the Desert

Movie Information

In Brief: What once made Luis Buñuel’s Simon of the Desert (1965) a favorite of university film classes — its 45-minute running time being perfect for one class session — has since conspired to make it one of the filmmaker’s more obscure works. After all, 45 minutes is an awkward fit for just about anything other than a classroom. That’s unfortunate, because this singular story of Simon Stylite (Claudio Brook), the fifth-century Christian ascetic who spent a large portion of his life communing with God from atop a pillar, is one of Buñuel’s richest and most complex films. The film that we have — the final one Buñuel made in Mexico — isn’t quite the film the director intended. This was to have been a more elaborate feature, but when the money ran out during production, Buñuel was forced to end the movie in a rather abrupt manner. For some people, this ending doesn’t work — I’ve never subscribed to that view. To me, it feels like Buñuel’s period piece was deliberately blindsided by the “swinging 1960s.” What started out as a playful rumination on religion became a comment on modern times, complete with the implication that what was happening wasn’t just outside the realm of Simon, but also outside the comprehension of the Beat Generation. In any case, it is what we have — however, you feel about it.
Genre: Surrealist Allegorical Comedy-Drama
Director: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Claudio Brook, Silvia Pinal, Enrique Alvarez Félix, Hortensia Santoveña, Jesus Fernandez
Rated: NR

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Simon of the Desert Friday, March 25, at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District (upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 828-273-3332,

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. 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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