August 23, 2013

Cornetto Week: Try To Escape THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL

"My feet have swollen."
Edgar Wright mentioned this movie during the Q&A following The World's End as a movie he'd seen years ago and had always stuck with him.  It's easy to see why.  The Exterminating Angel is a super weird Spanish language film about twenty guests at a fancy dinner party who, for reasons that are never particularly explained, find themselves unable to leave the hosts' parlor, while the local authorities are unable to enter the house to rescue them.  The room becomes a metaphysical prison of sorts - it's not as if there's some kind of force field in place, and they don't get electrocuted or something if they try to step through the doorway.  Any attempt to exit simply fills the guests with dread and discomfort, so they find some reason to stay put, even though they really want to leave.

I'll be totally honest, I was fucking exhausted when I watched this movie and I'm pretty sure I drifted off at one point, so take from that what you will, but this wasn't exactly the most engaging of films.  First of all, there are twenty goddamn dinner guests and they're all in borderline identical formalwear, so aside from a few exceptions it's extremely difficult to keep everyone straight.  The drama is also somewhat undermined by the time shifts that take place - there's no use of time lapse or montage to denote the passage of time, so a character will suddenly mention that it's 5:00 AM and you're left scratching your head saying, "Wait, weren't they just eating dinner like ten minutes ago?"  And because, for a long stretch early on, nobody seems concerned or uncomfortable with the fact that they're all still loitering around this couple's house long after they should have gone home, it takes a long time before there's real tension among the guests.  Things get more interesting once days have passed and they start running out of stuff like food and water, but the lack of any active malevolent force or puzzle for them to solve in order to regain their freedom makes for a lot of time spent watching people sit around panicking in no particular direction.  And when they do finally free themselves, their saving grace seems almost arbitrary.

I get why Wright mentioned The Exterminating Angel in connection to The World's End.  At the first sign of trouble in Newton Haven, Gary King and friends should have just called it quits and gotten the hell out of dodge.  But they stubbornly stick with it, making it a bit like the pub crawl that nobody is allowed to leave.  That being said, the connection is more than a bit tenuous.  This one will hardly enhance your viewing experience the same way that Drunken Master or Riki-Oh will.

Then again, I did fall asleep a bit in the middle.

Title: The Exterminating Angel
Director: Luis Bunuel
Starring: Silvia Pinal, Enrique Rambal, Claudio Brook, Jose Baviera, Augusto Benedico, Antonio Bravo
Year Of Release: 1962
Viewing Method: Digital Copy (TV)

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