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“In 1960, Mexican resident Luis Buñuel returned to Spain to shoot a film after 25 years of voluntary exile. Buñuel obediently submitted his scenario to the censors, and altered details according to their suggestions. He even changed the ending of the film to satisfy them. (‘It is a magnificent ending,' said the surrealist later. ‘Much better than the original crude one.') Buñuel showed an unfinished print to the censors, received their approval, and left for Paris to do the sound mix and final cut. The completed Viridiana was shown on the last night of the Cannes Film Festival - May 17, 1961 - and was awarded the prestigious Palme D'Or. The director remained in Paris, while the official Spanish film industry representative, a Sr. Munoz-Fontan, accepted the award. Viridiana touched off a livid scandal involving a condemnation from the Vatican, a total ban in Spain, punishment of bamboozled bureaucrats including the unfortunate Sr. Munoz-Fontan, legal entanglements about the nationality of the film (finally Mexican), seizings in Italy, secret screenings in Paris, and then a profitable world-wide commercial release accompanied by extensive critical appreciation. Buñuel told an interviewer: ‘I was not trying to be blasphemous, but then Pope John knows more about blasphemy than I. It was chance that led me to project the impious. If I had any pious ideas, perhaps I would express them too.... I refuse to mix in the scandal. Viridiana follows a tradition, a line that has been mine ever since L'Age d'Or; they are 30 years apart, and I can say that these are the two films which I directed with the greatest freedom. It's been my experience to succeed sometimes more and sometimes less with my films, and also to make routine films in order to make a living. However, I have always refused to make concessions.' Overall, although it suffered a few detractors, Viridiana was immediately acclaimed as a modern treasure. Variety called it ‘a perfect whole.... Brilliantly carpentered offbeat pic is sure to be controversial.' Andrew Sarris called it ‘one of the imperishable landmarks of the personal cinema.' Critic Freddy Buache summarizes the main theme of Viridiana: ‘Good and evil are fallacies that lead to dead ends. All acts are tinged to an equal degree with ambiguity, and nothing will change so long as we still live with our present moral system, i.e. the denial of l'amour fou and the affirmation of mystifying abstract forces.'”

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