While arch surrealist Luis Bunuel never made a secret of his skepticism about the existence of God, he was also raised as a strict Spanish Catholic and remained fascinated with the church's teaching throughout his life, and his obsessions with both faith and the contradictions of dogma provided the basis for this episodic satiric comedy. Jean (Laurent Terzieff) and Pierre (Paul Frankeur) are two threadbare vagabonds who are making their way from Paris to Spain on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of Saint James are believed to be kept. While Jean and Pierre's journey begins in the 20th Century, as they travel they seemingly develop the ability to move through time and space as they pass through a variety of historical scenes taken from a broad range of theological texts -- and all involving heresy in one form or another. As they walk the long road to Santiago de Compostela (when they can't catch a ride), Jean and Pierre encounter Jesus (Bernard Verley), who decides not to shave his beard to keep his mother happy; a young boy with stigmata and unusual powers; the Marquis de Sade (Michel Piccoli), who patently struggles to teach atheism to a young girl he's captured; an eccentric priest who has an irreversible belief in transubstantiation until he changes his mind; two men who put their debate over Catholic dogma to the test in a duel with swords; and Satan (Pierre Clementi), who shows up just in time for a car wreck. La Voie Lactee (aka The Milky Way) was scripted by Bunuel and his frequent screenwriting collaborator Jean-Claude Carriere; each of the film's historic episodes was adapted faithfully from an actual biblical text or historical account. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
Designed to be confusing to the viewer. If you want brain numbing, go elsewhere, but if you want intellectual challenge, this DVD has it for you. The supplemental material is great, and helps to understand Brunel's purpose. This is a dialogue on everything that is wrong about Catholocism and some of what is right about it. Will challenge your viewpoints. Not just about Catholic fanaticism, applies to the religious fanaticism (and some political) that is driving global hatred and bigotry today. Plus it is entertaining, jumping from century to century, like a time traveler, from pious to prostitute.
I expected it to be stimulating. And it is. I did not expect it to be funny. But it is, very funny. ALL the quotes and historical figures are real, which given the history of the church and its various heresies, makes for a surreal film even without the added surreal-ness of Bunuel.
Everybody talks theology, even in the midst of everyday activities, which can be funny by itself -- like the maitre d' hotel in a ritzy establishment expounding on some subtle point and then telling a waiter, "This pear is too ripe. Get rid of it." Bunuel takes your mind for a ride.
Then the Jesuit and the Jansenist dueling in words, challenging each other to a real duel, and continuing to expound their points amidst the clashing of the swords -- priceless!
I watched this with an ex-nun, and we both loved it. She recognized some theology I didn't catch, but there were heresies even she didn't know. Mind-bending. Sexy. With action. With laughs. Like life!
I'm a sucker for crazy visuals, which means I'm a sucker for Bunuel. This is an episodic journey of 2 vagrants to visit a holy artifact (I assume). A satire of Christianity, might offend or enlighten some people. Not as great as Exterminating Angel in my eyes but still worth a look.