Diary of a Chambermaid

That Obscure Object of Desire
Fri-Thurs Aug 24-30 at the Varsity.

Why do I dislike Luis Buñuel? Because he was a surrealist, and I dislike surrealism because it takes all of its clues from dreams. And I hate dreams because they bother my sleep. In a word, I dislike Buñuel because I don't like dreams. Dreams are bad! They do nothing except bring life to sleep. And sleep should be unto death, with nothing on the mind's screen, or mind-dome (in the Truman Show sense), just blackness, emptiness--pure oblivion from which one awakes not traumatized by the dream-state/real-life transition, but reinvigorated by the journey to and from the land of the dead.

Nothing is worse than being subjected to a sequence of silly situations that add up to nothing. Indeed, every time I wake up from a dream I'm angry with my head: "What was the use of that dream?" I say to it. "Why was I fondling my sister's breast? Why was that dog barking at me in the dark closet? Why was I on the moon looking for my father's tombstone?" Sleep is supposed to be a time for rest and peace, not a galloping chaos of unrelated images that shake one out of sleep. Oh, how I wish a major pharmaceutical corporation would come up with a pill that could snuff out the bright life of my dreams.

Buñuel's films go on forever, like bad dreams. In fact, we never see the real lives of his characters, only their movements through levels and layers of dreams. This, of course, is the dream-lovers' paradise! They get to see an interesting dream, which gives them enormous pleasure because dream-lovers believe that truth exists only in the subconscious, where it's hidden or repressed by your conscious hours. Therefore, to decode Buñuel's film-dream is to access the truth.

In Diary of a Chambermaid, an elegant Parisian woman (Jeanne Moreau) goes out to the countryside to work for an aristocratic family. The world she enters and becomes a part of is medieval. There is a macho laborer, who loves to make the geese suffer before he kills them; an old man with a foot fetish; a madam of the house, who is frigid; a master of the house, who is sex-starved and spends his time hunting wild animals; and a dead girl in the dark forest, who was raped and murdered while collecting slimy snails. This movie is not about the chambermaid and her deep secrets, but is just a bad dream raging in the head of a city woman who had too much to drink at a posh downtown party and is now snoring on the bed she plopped on shortly after returning to her apartment.

In That Obscure Object of Desire, Buñuel's last film, we start with an explosion, which is followed by a strange scene at a train station involving an older man (Fernando Rey) and a much younger woman (Carole Bouquet/Angela Molina). The older man pours a bucket of water on the young woman's head. The man then enters a train and explains the reasons for his actions to a dwarf. Already the dream-lover is thinking this means this and that means that, when the film is nothing more than a random dream burrowing in the head of a sleeping pig farmer.

Many who watch these films will find them challenging, complex, and hard to understand. They will say, for example, that Diary of a Chambermaid is difficult or That Obscure Object of Desire is incomprehensible. But these films are not demanding, because they don't mean anything. Balloons and umbrellas in dreams don't mean anything; surrealism, Dali's horrible paintings, and Kafka's stories amount to nothing. Dreams are useless. Ignore them, and don't try to decipher them like Joseph of Egypt.

Speaking of Egypt, the ancient Egyptians believed that when one went to sleep, the sun, which had fallen in the real world, rose in the dream world. It was not a dream sun, but the actual sun that blazed over the shimmering terrain of this other place. If I were a sleeping Egyptian, I would have desired nothing more than a powerful gun to shoot down the ball of light from the sky so that the dream world and the real world collapsed into one great darkness.