Luis Bunuel

Luis Bunuel was a gifted surrealist director from SpainThe founder of surrealist cinema, Luis Buñuel enjoyed a career as diverse and contradictory as his films: he was a master of both silent and sound cinema, of documentaries as well as features. Despite all the innovations of his work, Buñuel remained surprisingly consistent and limited in the targets of his social satire: the Catholic Church, bourgeois culture, and Fascism. As he once commented, "Religious education and surrealism have marked me for life."

Luis Buñuel was born February 22, 1900 in Calanda, a small town in the province of Teruel, in Aragón, Spain, to Leonardo Buñuel and María Portolés. He would later describe his birthplace by saying that in Calanda, "the Middle Ages lasted until World War I." The oldest of seven children, Luis had two brothersand and four sisters: When Buñuel was just four and a half months old, the family moved to Zaragoza, where he received a strict Jesuit education at the private Colegio del Salvador. After being kicked and insulted by the study hall proctor before a final exam, Buñuel refused to return to the school, completing the last two years of his high school education at the local public school. After graduating in 1917, Luis Bunuel went on to attend the University at Madrid, first studying agronomy then industrial engineering and finally switching to philosophy. While there he made friends with artists and poets living in the Residencia de Estudiantes including Salvador Dali and Federico García Lorca.

In 1925, Luis Buñuel moved to Paris, where he began work as a secretary in an organization called the International Society of Intellectual Cooperation. It was during this time that he met his future wife, Jeanne Rucar, whom he married in 1934. The two remained married throughout his life and had two sons. Buñuel did a variety of film-related odd jobs in Paris, including working as an assistant to director Jean Epstein. With financial assistance from his mother and creative assistance from Dalí, he made his first film, the 17-minute Un Chien Andalou, in 1929, and immediately catapulted himself into film history. Thanks to its shocking imagery It made a deep impression on the Surrealist Group, who welcomed Buñuel into their ranks.

In 1930, sponsored by wealthy art patrons, Luis Bunuel made his first feature, the scabrous witty and violent L'Age d'Or, which mercilessly attacked the church and the middle classes, themes that would preoccupy Buñuel for the rest of his career. Bunuel found work increasingly hard to come by and after the Spanish Civil War he emigrated to the United States where he worked for the Museum of Modern Art and as a film dubber for Warner Brothers.

His next film, Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (1932) was a documentary financed with money won in a lottery and shot with a camera borrowed from Yves Allégret. Ostensibly an objective study of a remote, impoverished region in western Spain, the film constituted such a militant critique of both church and state that it was banned in Spain. The stage had been set, however, for Buñuel's later work, in which realism - with its pre-established mass appeal - provided an accessible context for his surreal aesthetic and moral code. After Las Hurdes, Buñuel would not direct another film until 1947.

In 1946 Buñuel moved to Mexico, where many of Spain's intellectuals and artists had emigrated after the Civil War. He would live there for the rest of his life, becoming a citizen in 1949 and directing 20 films by 1964. This period is often described as an "apprenticeship" in which Buñuel was forced to shoot low-budget commercial films in between a handful of surreal "classics." Indeed, Buñuel's supposed indifference to style - his minimal use of non-diegetic music, close-ups or camera movement-is often judged to be largely the result of the limited resources available to him.

In 1950 Bunuel directed his critically acclaimed Los Olvidados, and its triumph at Cannes made Buñuel an instant world celebrity and the most important Spanish-speaking film director in the world. In 1961, General Franco, anxious to be seen to be supporting Spanish culture invited Buñuel back to his native country. Unwilling to make peace that easily, Bunuel responded by  by making Viridiana in 1961. The film was a direct assault on Spanish Catholicism and Fascism and was banned in Spain on the grounds of blasphemy, though it won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

After Viridiana, Buñuel worked mostly in France. The growth of his new international (and consequently educated and middle-class) audience coincided with his return to a surrealist aesthetic. The Exterminating Angel (1962), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) and The Phantom of Liberty (1974) depict a bourgeoisie trapped within their own conventions, if not-in the latter film's metaphorical conceit-their own homes. Belle De Jour (1967), Tristana (1970) and That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) explore sexual obsessions and preoccupations. And The Milky Way (1970) launches a frontal assault on the Church, in a summation of Buñuel's lifelong contempt for that institution. In 1980 Buñuel collaborated with Jean-Claude Carrière, his screenwriter since Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), on his autobiography, My Last Sigh.