Luis Buñuel’s personal favorite among the films he made in Mexico, Nazarín is a blisteringly ironic, hauntingly beautiful parable about an idealistic young priest (Francisco Rabal) whose attempts to lead a truly Christian life are ridiculed by the thieves and prostitutes who make up his urban parish. Driven out, he wanders the countryside begging for food, but when his prayers seem to cure a dying child, he becomes a Christlike figure, pursuing his mission with two former prostitutes (Marga Lopez and Rita Macedo) as his apostles. Despite winning an award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, the film’s treatment of religion proved so controversial that it was not released in the US until 1968, where it was received by an uncomprehending pan in the New York Times. Out of distribution for many years, Nazarín was restored in 2019 by Mexico’s Cineteca Nacional and Fundación Televisa, and now takes its place as one of Buñuel’s masterworks.
Much more than the standard “making-of” documentary, Javier Espada’s 2015 Tras Nazarín (Following Nazarín) locates Luis Buñuel’s 1959 Nazarín within the Mexican landscape, using still photos taken by Buñuel and the great Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo (the subject of a MoMA retrospective in 2014) to link the images of the film to the countryside as it was at the time of the shoot and as it is today. Interviews with Buñuel’s collaborators, among them the screenwriter Jean Claude Carrière and the actors Ignacio López Tarso and Silvia Pinal, evoke Buñuel’s methods; reflections from filmmakers (including Arturo Ripstein and Carlos Reygadas), critics, and scholars position this eternally audacious work in the context of Spanish Catholicism and Mexican history.
Organized by Dave Kehr, Curator, Department of Film. Thanks to Fundación Televisa, Cineteca Nacional México, and Daniela Michel, Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia.