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Nazarin is a priest, attempting to living a pure and honest life strictly according to Christian principles - but others only show him distrust and hatred, apart from the local prostitute... —Michael Brooke.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
Sep 15, 2021 at 05:00 PM
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How to live a perfect life in a corrupted world?
Octavio Paz, Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990, said about "Nazarin": "Nazarin follows the great tradition of mad Spaniards originated by Cervantes. His madness consists in taking seriously great ideas and trying to live accordingly". A humble and spiritual priest (Francisco Rabal in a wonderful performance) attempts to live by the principles of Christianity but is cast out of his church for helping a local prostitute by giving her a shelter after she had committed a murder. Nazarin wanders the country roads of the turn of the 20th-century Mexico, offering help to poor and begging for food. His two followers, a murderous prostitute Andara and her sister Beatriz who is a failed suicide desperately searching for love, consider him saint but it does not prevent him from hatred and humiliation from both the church and the people he meets on the road. He ends up beaten in prison and begins to question his faith for not be able to forgive his attacker. Bunuel tells the story in a manner of a Christian parable masterfully and uniquely combining admiration and irony for the main character and strong criticism of formal religion and hypocrisy. The film is simple and profound as well as beautiful, ironic, and heartbreaking.I consider Bunuel one of the best filmmakers ever. I've seen twenty of his films and they all belong to the different periods of his life but they have in common his magic touch, the masterful combination of gritty realism and surrealism, his curiosity, his inquisitive mind, his sense of humor, and his dark and shining fantasies. With great pleasure I am adding little seen and almost unknown but amazingly candid and touching surrealistic tragic-comedy "Nazarin" to the list of my favorite films.
A man of God
"Nazarin" directed by Luis Bunuel presents an extraordinary view of religion in Mexico. As written by the director and Julio Alejandro, his notable collaborator, this was a film that put Mexican cinema in the international map after receiving the Grand Prix in Cannes that year. It's a disturbing film because Mr. Bunuel delves deep into what's wrong with the church.Nazarin, by all reckoning, is a saint. This young priest is seen living a life of poverty in a seedy pension of a city. He doesn't have enough for himself, but he doesn't mind parting with a coin when a beggar appears by his window asking for help. At the same time, he takes into his small room a prostitute that has been hurt in a fight with another woman. Andara, the woman repays his kindness by burning the room and the whole building! Nazarin is seen taking to the countryside begging for food. Andara and Beatriz, two prostitutes from his old town follow him. Nazarin's life parallels that of Jesus. In fact, this saintly figure makes a case for humility.Of course,Mr. Bunuel had no religion in mind when he and Mr. Alejandro took it upon themselves to create this film. It's ironic how Spain welcomed him after this film was released because they saw it as showing Christian qualities, when in reality, this is an acerbic satire on the catholic church and its ministers.Francisco Rabal, the Spanish actor, makes a wonderful Nazarin. This was one of his best roles. Mr. Rabal worked extensively in his native country, but also in Mexico and Argentina. Rita Macedo, as Andara, is also excellent. Marga Lopez also makes a valuable contribution with her portrayal of Beatriz.A great film by one of the cinema's master film makers: Luis Bunuel.
An essential piece in the Buñuel puzzle
I love the absurdity and biting humor of Buñuel's surrealist films (such as "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" and "The Exterminating Angel", to name two). Other, earlier works (like "The Forgotten Ones", about juvenile delinquents from a marginal neighborhood in Mexico) are more serious and provide a strong social message.However, I believe it is "Nazarin" which most successfully shoots for the heart of the viewer. While it's true that it's brimming with irony, it nevertheless reveals an aspect of Buñuel which would appear to be intrigued by the beauty and solemnity of the spiritual quest. Here, while the director (quite typically) throws countless jabs at the Catholic Church, he also appears to show, surprisingly, a sense of admiration for genuine Christian thought and its practice of selfless love."What?? Luis Buñuel unabashedly praising a Jesus-like figure??" I always thought of him as a completely cynical artist without a trace of faith in human virtue... that is, until I watched "Nazarin". My appreciation is that he satirically exposes the difficulty of following Christ's example in a society infested with meanness, ignorance and sin; but he also presents the hero, Father Nazario, as quite the beacon of light amidst a sea of darkness. Without a doubt, by the end of the film I was looking up to him and not down on him! Some would argue that Father Nazario's doubts regarding his faith point to the loss of his saintly values. (Alas, if he can't do good in this world, who can?) But I would say that this "flaw", his frustration, precisely makes his character all the more heroic, because it shows how human he is and how challenging his struggle within must be. And who says the priest couldn't eventually emerge from that "dark night" and regain his confidence? Perhaps we've only been presented with a difficult part of his spiritual journey. The elegant, open ending allows us to imagine ourselves what the final outcome of the story might be like.I recognize in Buñuel the aggressive, self-professed atheist endowed with brilliant wit and social awareness; but after having watched "Nazarin", I also sense from him a certain warmth, a depth and maturity that's not so evident in his other work.For the sake of contrast, I strongly recommend watching afterward his short film "Simon of the Desert" (also made in Mexico, several years later). It deals with a similar subject matter – the surrender of the ego in the face of temptation –, only it does so in a hysterically funny and totally irreverent style.
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