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      That Obscure Object of Desire
    "Object" lesson

    Luis Bu–uel's 1978 film "That Obscure Object of Desire" has been rereleased with its novel approach of using two actresses to play the two sides of one woman's personality.


    Buñuel's last film, now revived 23 years after its original release, is a dizzying tango between Mathieu, a businessman, and the young woman, Conchita — played by two different actresses — by whom he is alternately captivated and tormented.

    Directed by: Luis Bu–uel.
    Written by: Luis Bu–uel, Jean-Claude Carriere.
    Cast: Fernando Rey, Carole Bouquet, çngela Molina, Julien Bertheau, Andre Weber, Milena Vukotic.
    As the film begins, Mathieu (played by Fernando Rey) purchases a train ticket then returns home to find the aftermath of a scuffle. His butler tells him the woman who was there earlier (Conchita, played by Angela Molina) has left, leaving behind her shoes, panties and a bloody pillow. Mathieu tells the butler to burn these things. He boards the train and Conchita, played in this instant by Carole Bouquet, runs up to him on the train saying, "You can't leave!". He responds by dumping a bucket of water on her. He then proceeds to tell the people in his compartment about "the worst of all women" — Conchita — and the story of their tense affair unspools.

    Mathieu first meets Conchita when she works for him as a maid. He puts the moves on her and she leaves; he then runs into her in Switzerland (after her friends mug him) and he begins attempting to woo her. These attempts are all futile; any time they come close to having sex she refuses (at one point turning up in bed wearing a tightly laced pair of chastity-belt-like shorts). Conchita and her mother get deported to Spain, where they run into Mathieu in Seville. He buys Conchita a house, only to arrive there one night and find her insolently having sex with another man.

    This film is drolly comedic in its depiction of a war between the sexes. Issues of what a man will go through to attain the woman he wants and questions regarding what it really means to love someone (Mathieu seems to be equating love with possession) may arise in the viewer's mind while watching this film. One wonders if back in 1977 (when this film was first released) feminists were perturbed by the scene in which, after Mathieu sees Conchita with another man, he strikes her and she tells him, "Now I know you really love me!" See this with your significant other if you dare.

    (Editor's note: From the opposite gender's perspective, the brilliant thing about "That Obscure Object of Desire" is the way the two almost identical actresses combine to play one woman's two personalities. One actress is a sweet and loving Conchita, the other actress is a contemptuous and sadistic Conchita, and we feel Mathieu's anguish, never knowing which of these women his wife is going to be at any moment. So often, we feel exactly this way about the inscrutable women in our own lives — um, right, guys?)

    JULY 13, 2001

    Reader comments on That Obscure Object of Desire:

  • [no subject]   from kevin, Oct 5, 2001
  • ugh   from JG, Feb 9, 2004
  • Re: ugh   from debraj, Jan 28, 2006
  • clarification   from , Nov 25, 2004
  • [no subject]   from durutti, Dec 7, 2004

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