Luis Buñuel's 'Tristana' helped launch the career of Catherine Deneuve, one of the most mythologized actresses in the world, particularly because of her roles in films like this. The Spanish drama made in 1970 opens at the Opera Plaza on January 4th in San Francisco. The magnificent art direction and psychological tension is the key to its longevity as a film classic.
Tristana has to endure being molested by her guardian, her mother’s husband Don Lope Garrido (Fernando Rey) who is 25 years her senior, and later reluctantly becomes his common law wife.
Deneuve has been frequently typecast to play sexually twisted characters such as a daytime French prostitute in 'Belle du Jour ' (1967), and before that as a woman who is so disgusted by men that she winds up killing a suitor who won't leave her alone in Roman Polanski’s 'Repulsion' (1965).
At first the young Tristana is unable to dissuade the attention given to her by her guardian but eventually rebels and leaves Don Lope for a younger man, the artist Horacio Díaz played by Italian actor Franco Nero. Later, almost as a punishment, Tristana becomes seriously ill and then a cripple. Horacio thinks she is better off with the man she came to despise. Tristana is stuck with her pathetically hopeless admirer and also begins a sadistic relationship with a deaf boy. She has recurring nightmares watching Don Lope’s head swinging from the bell tower.
This story about twisted love is regarded as a masterpiece at a time when European art films were the rage at cinemas in the USA. This was one of the most controversial and should be part of every film lover's experience.