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May 16, 2010


TristanaLuis Buñuel's Tristana is a sly feminist treatise about an escape from patriarchal subjugation paired with its own set of physical obstacles. Revenge also plays into the stylized narrative cards that Luis Buñuel reorders from Benito Perez Galdos's 1892 novel in order to emphasize the freedom of will of his enigmatic title character (unforgettably played by Catherine Deneuve).

In Toledo, Spain, the death of Tristana's mother leaves her to be "adopted" by Don Lope (Fernando Rey), a wealthy duplicitous liberal who views Tristana as both daughter and his virginal wife-to-be. Disgusted by the elderly man's attempts to limit her freedom and curtail her education, Tristana falls for a local painter named Horacio (Franco Nero) in a love-at-first-sight meeting that catches Lope off guard. Also close by is Saturno (Jesus Fernandez), the mute teenage son of Don Lope's maid. Buñuel uses Saturno's inability to speak as a corollary thematic element of restrained desire that finds liberation late in the film, when Tristana gives herself over to a thrilling moment of erotic exhibitionism from her balcony. Two years spent living with Horacio come to an end when a terrible cyst in Tristana's foot causes Horacio to bring her back to Don Lope for the older, and ostensibly wealthier man, to care for her. Buñuel depicts the horse-trading that goes on between the men as yet another way that women are treated as possessions.


As with Buñuel's "Diary of a Chambermaid," "Tristana" (1970) carries a significant element of foot fetishism expanded into an amputee fixation, as witnessed by Tristana's prosthetic leg lying on the bed with her lingerie, or the exposed nub beneath her skirt as she plays piano. The film also contains an element of horror that rears up in Tristana's recurring nightmare about the man who attempts to control her destiny. 


To experience "Tristiana" is to walk in the veritable shoes of millions of women. The scent is intoxicating in the hands of Luis Buñuel.    


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