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That Obscure Object of Desire

Luis Bunuel's last film, and also one of his best. This would be a great candidate for a double-bill with VertigoVertigo has two characters played by one actress, and That Obscure Object of Desire has one character played by two actresses. The story behind that is that when the original actress hired for the role wasn't working out, Bunuel joked to Serge Silberman, his producer, that he should get two actresses for the role; Silberman thought he was serious and that it was a great idea, and so Bunuel found himself getting two actresses and dividing their scenes up equally. The really interesting thing – the two Conchitas look nothing like each other, yet you tend to see them both as one person; it stops being odd very shortly into the film.

The film starts with a man boarding a train, and dumps a huge bucket of water on a woman. The other passengers see this and ask him what the story is… so he tells them. It's a story of being manipulated by her, but he's not the innocent party either. Like Vertigo, it's a story of obsession for something he can never have, and how that obsession can twist both parties – the obsessed and the object of that obsession.

Another interesting aside – there's a famous scene where Mathieu (Fernando Rey) is carrying a large burlap sack, for seemingly no reason. And, well, it is for no reason – Bunuel originally shot the scene without the sack, but someone on the crew made the suggestion of having him carry the sack, so Bunuel shot that version too. When the film was being edited, he decided he liked the take with the sack, and so that's what showed up in the movie. There's no actual point to the sack, but then again, Bunuel loved false symbols… and so do I.