The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
According to Buñuel a “journey through fanaticism,” La Voie Lactée follows two poor pilgrims in the present, one young, one old, an atheist and a believer, through southern France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where St. James the Apostle’s bones are presumably interred. Their various encounters, along with a stream of historical vignettes, compose a surreal landscape of Christian dogma, heresies, hypocrises, blasphemies. There are also visions and miracles. This brilliant comedy is as fluent as spun silk.
At a village inn, where the pair stop, a priest and a police officer genially converse. Painstakingly the priest explains the dogma of transubstantiation to the officer: The body of Christ is not contained in the wafer, but in the sacrament of the Eucharist the wafer becomes Christ’s body—actually; not symbolically. When the restaurateur mildly asserts that the body of Christ is in the Host like the hare is in the pâté he is serving, the vexed priest counters that in the sixteenth century the Pateliers were burned for that heresy. Now the priest has a revelation: the restaurateur is correct! When the officer expresses surprise at this contradiction, the priest, really vexed, flings hot coffee in his face. Men in white cart away the priest. Thus Buñuel exquisitely mocks religious dogmatic “thinking” (such as currently afflicts Islamic and U.S. Christian fundamentalists). A subsequent argument, about grace versus free will, between a Jesuit and a Jansenist leads to a duel.
Jesus—he spits on the blind and they can see!—and the Marquis de Sade are among the cast of characters. Sometimes, historical characters cross paths with our twosome.
Buñuel: “Bourgeois morality, for me, is immoral and to be fought[—t]he morality founded on our most unjust social institutions, like religion, patriotism, the family, culture.”
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.