A very young and very beautiful Catherine Deneuve already had a string of triumphs when Luis Buñuel selected her in 1970 for the title role of "Tristana," a remarkable work for the great Spanish director at age 70.
Restoration was necessary because the film stock used back then was subject to staining and color shifting, giving the remaining known negative a pinkish hue. To the rescue: the Cohen Film Collection, an organization specializing in film rescue, and the result - mostly successful - is now released. In San Francisco, the film is showing at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinemas.
Deneuve, 27 when "Tristana" was made, already had a starry record: Jacques Demy's 1963 "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," Roman Polanski's 1965 "Repulsion," and Buñuel's 1967 "Belle de Jour," among others. (Her career total now is over 100 films.)
She first appears in "Tristana" as an orphaned young woman, always in black, and she is taken in by the elderly Don Lope - the marvelous Fernando Rey, who creates an unforgettable, multifaceted, fascinating character.
Most of the film is taken up by the cat-and-mouse game between Tristana and Don Lope as he wants to be "both father and husband," very much to her dislike. How the mouse comes to roar is one of the film's strong points, but saying more would be a spoiler. Near the end, there are memorable changes and reversals providing deep psychological insights, but I found the finale itself hasty and confusing.
The third star in "Tristana" is Franco Nero, whose career ranges from the lead in the 1966 spaghetti western "Django" to an appearance in the new Quentin Tarantino "Django Unchained." Nero is a handsome painter who falls in love with Tristana. The usual triumph of young love over an old man's lechery, the happy ending in Hollywood filmmaking, comes midway here, and there is much more to come.
It's good to have a fine print, but "Tristana" would be a gem even in a pink haze.