Death in the Garden (La Mort en ce jardin) (1956)
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as Father Lisardi
as Capt. Ferrero
as Captain Ferrero
Critic Reviews for Death in the Garden (La Mort en ce jardin)
Death in the Garden is a kind of halfway house for the film genius, made when he had yet to receive the acclaim that would give him full control of his movies, but after he had been taken seriously enough by the money men.
Signoret's frenzy becomes her character's, enervating an otherwise humdrum melodrama.
Though belonging to the oft-overlooked Mexican phase of Buñuel's career, Death in the Garden is nonetheless as caustic and vicious as anything he ever made.
...a subterfuge film from Buñuel, in which his style and politics are subsumed within genre trappings.
Audience Reviews for Death in the Garden (La Mort en ce jardin)
There was some "lost classic" hype buzzing around "Death in the Garden," when the film was belatedly released on DVD last year. Sorry to say, the hoopla is not earned. I had a harder time sitting through this than any other Luis Bunuel film I've seen, and I've seen most of his less appreciated works. And people try to compare this with "Aguirre, Wrath of God"? The heart of the plot is a small, eclectic band of people tramping through the jungle, trying to escape a South American village governed by a corrupt police force. The group includes a priest (Michel Piccoli, in his first of seven Bunuel pictures), a prostitute (Simone Signoret), a macho outsider (Georges Marchal), a deaf girl and her cook father. The main problem is that the film takes about 50 minutes to arrive at this point. Before that, the story just wanders around the village, establishing characters and the fundamental conflict: a riot brewing after the police seize the diamond mine that provides everyone's livelihood. There is one notable flash of perversity, however: Marchal's character, Shark, enters the film by casually flipping his middle finger at the troops. A somewhat shocking inclusion, by 1956 standards. Once the central characters are on the run, the story becomes a bit more interesting. The fugitives turn punchy with exhaustion and hunger, and a more primal clash of personalities emerges. Signoret has promised herself to the cook, but only because of the money he has stockpiled to open a restaurant. But she has second thoughts, and starts feeling drawn toward Marchal instead. Piccoli tries to be a calming presence, but is predictably ineffectual (this is a Luis Bunuel film, after all). The five hope to sail away to Brazil, but their internal tensions may become more of an obstacle than the police pursuing them. All this sounds much more compelling than it is. It's one of Bunuel's earliest color projects, and plenty of gun action helps cover the incongruity of a Spanish director making a French-language film about South America. And there are two subversive insertions which can't be missed: a memorable image of a large snake being swarmed by fire ants (Bunuel always loves his insects!) and a strange, delirious anecdote from Piccoli about an old seminary classmate who liked to eat soft-boiled eggs. But the first half's tedium can't be overcome and, in the end, "Death in the Garden" doesn't feel like much more than a second-rate adventure movie.
It's "The Exterminating Angel" with a jungle setting, with characters being pray to their surrounds and revealing their real personalities to the audience an to each other. The colour cinematography is quite striking, especially when you have a very blonde and very dangerous Simone Signoret in red lisptick.
In "Death in the Garden," the military of a South American country is ordered to nationalize the diamond mines and has given a day for everyone to clear out. In response, they go to talk to Captain Ferrero(Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) who surprisingly agrees to a meeting but only on the condition that they leave their guns outside. This they will not do and a small gunfight erupts, with the miners fleeing in the wake of superior firepower. After the smoke clears, Chark(Georges Marchal) gives the soldiers a one finger salute. He treats Djin(Simone Signoret) better before she rats him out to the local authorities. With his film "Death in the Garden," Luis Bunuel makes a logical case for the randomness of the universe and against a higher power while also ironically making use of a deus ex machina. How else do you explain a priest(Michel Piccoli) on a fool's errand who is better dressed than anyone else? The military might be in their rights to kick out the foreigners who only seek to exploit the mineral wealth of their country but they are horribly brutal in their methods. The disparate group of characters at the heart of the movie, as more than one character points out, is all in the same boat, literally and figuratively, no matter their respective sins.
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