They were countrymen, both from Aragón; Carlos Saura considers himself Luis Buñuel’s disciple. Perhaps Saura’s masterpiece, Buñuel y la mesa del rey Salomón, which Saura wrote with Agustín Sánchez Vidal, whose documentary A propósito de Buñuel (2000) had investigated Buñuel’s Surrealism and atheism, is an attempt to imagine Buñuel alive again (nearly twenty years after his death) and inside his head as Buñuel contemplates making another film. It opposes time as well by imagining as Buñuel’s cohorts in the adventure at the heart of this impossible film of Bunuel’s dreams inside Saura’s dreams two other deceased Spaniards: Catalonian Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, who had died, conventionally, in the arms of the Church about a half-dozen years after Buñuel; Andalusian poet/playwright Federico García Lorca, whom a band of fascists murdered in 1936 at the advent of the Spanish Civil War. In reality, the three young men had been eternal friends (for a time), Dalí and García Lorca lovers—before Gala intervened and Dalí married her. In Saura’s achingly dark, mysterious, beautiful film, the three search through fantastic corridors and catacombs in Toledo for the lustrous magical table of King Solomon, which permits one a view of past, present and future.
Saura’s film cuts between the “present” that Saura imagines, in which Buñuel imagines the never-was film, and the world of this imagined film—a region (depending on your point of view) that dips below or rises above the surface of reality to confront phantoms of the past, the hereafter, the nothing-after.
There is an image that owes its visionary style to Dalí: while Buñuel as a young boy watches, a young girl on the beach lifts up the ocean, a rubbery sheet of water, and espies the horrors underneath: against Nature, Franco’s Spain.
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