Luis Buñuel’s final film That Obscure Object of Desire (1978) opens with Buñuel regular Fernando Rey catching a train, only to realize a young woman is pursuing him. He neatly disposes of this annoyance by — with the help of the conductor — unceremoniously pouring a bucket of water on her as she tries to board the train. Not surprisingly, this causes a certain interest among the other passengers, one of whom is a psychologist — and since this is a Buñuel picture, he’s also a dwarf. The man decides to tell the others the story that led up to this action — which is the story of his relationship with the woman, Conchita (played by Catole Bouquet or Angela Molina at various points in the film) in question. It’s a tale of romance (sort of), sexuality (mostly deferred) and mostly of obsession, which may or may not be the same thing. In its way, this is typical of Buñuel — a film about the foolishness of erotic obsession. The odds are a little upped by having two actresses play Conchita — a decision made more out of desperation than inspiration and brought on by one actress quitting part way through shooting. However, the approach works since it underscores just how obscure the object of that desire is. If the story sounds a little familiar that’s because it was also the source of Josef von Sternberg’s final collaboration with Marlene Dietrich, The Devil Is a Woman (1935). The concepts are similar, but the films aren’t very much alike — though they do make an intersesting comparison.That, however, is another story for another time.
Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present That Obscure Object of Desire Friday, March 22 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library). Info: 273-3332, www.ashevillecourtyard.com