Claudio Brook

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Simon of the Desert Review


Excellent
Summing up Luis Buñuel's wicked Simon of the Desert is easy: Saint Simeon Stylites (Buñuel regular Claudio Brook) travels from the top of a small pillar, where he has been praying for six years, six months, and six weeks, to a larger pillar built by a worshiper. Atop the new pillar, he receives many adulators and priests but mostly spends his time resisting the temptations of the Devil (Sylvia Pinal). Simon talks of his devotions, the everyday sins of the many, and wags his finger at the Devil, until the temptress invokes a hairpin turn in the film's final measures.

Simon, which was the last of three films Buñuel made with Brook, Pinal, and Pinal's husband/producer Gustavo Alatriste, notoriously ran out of funding before it was completed, but its hard to imagine a more mainlined shot of Buñuel's Kool-Aid than the resulting 45-minute acid trip through heaven, hell, and the cracked earth. Resilient and complex despite its short narrative, Buñuel fashioned this outlandishly critical work from the story of the Syria-born Simeon Stylites the Elder, who started studying Christianity when he was 16 and then spent the rest of his life (37 years) praying on top of pillars.

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The Exterminating Angel Review


Extraordinary
One of Buñuel's most accessible films, The Exterminating Angel tells a surreal tale that sneaks up on you: A dinner party for some crusty types (the kind who often appear in Buñuel films) is thrown, with only some minor hitches. But afterwards, no one leaves. Turns out they can't. Some unexplained force is keeping them from being able to muster the will to go. It's not like a forcefield that they bang on to get out. They just can't go through the threshold to the other room. Days go by. The situation gets so desperate that several people die, a hole is cut in the wall for water, and the devil is summoned. The police stand watch outside, similarly unable to enter. Guessing what will happen next is only half the fun. Guessing why this all began is the other half. Of course, in typical fashion, Buñuel offers no explanation, but the way your head spins around this simple premise makes each scene more fun than the last.

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Cronos Review


Good
Watch Alias? You spent two seasons hearing about that Rambaldi device and what did you get by way of payoff? Absolutely nothing. Well, consider Cronos the finale that you never got, as its little bit of alchemy from the past is as good as anything J.J. Abrams could have come up with, I'm sure.

In a career of so-so horror movies (Mimic, Blade II), Guillermo del Toro made his biggest impression with Cronos, an alternately sweet, funny, and creepy horrorshow the likes of which we don't often see.

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Claudio Brook

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