Film Review: Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles

A portrait of a filmmaker who did not live by bread alone

Salvador Simó’s animated Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is not the shelly phantasmagoria its title suggests but instead more of an examination of the ethics of documentary filmmaking. It concerns the making of Luis Buñuel’s third film, the short documentary Land Without Bread — which was a relatively straightforward picture compared to Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’or, but no less controversial. Luis (Jorge Usón) finds himself without money or prospects after the negative reaction to L’Age D’or in 1930, until his friend Ramón (Fernando Ramos) offers to fund his next film. They travel to the Las Hurdes region of Spain, where Luis shoots a documentary about the grinding poverty experienced by its inhabitants, to the increasing frustration of both those inhabitants and Ramón. Though director Simó works in some appropriately Buñuelian dream sequences — as well as a subplot about Buñuel’s father which, oddly enough, evokes Alejandro Jodorowsky’s recent films — Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles is most interesting when it questions the exploitation of poverty and Luis staging events for supposedly non-fiction films. It should be noted that Labyrinth of Turtles intercuts live-action footage from Land Without Bread, including the exceedingly inhumane slaughter of animals. Even though it’s from 90 years ago, this is not a dream.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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