So much talent, so little time: Luis Buñuel and Gabriel García Márquez

El País ran a curious story today about a synopsis of a screenplay for a light comedy titled Es tan fácil que hasta los hombres pueden (It’s so easy even men can do it) that Gabriel García Márquez sent to Luís Buñuel in the early 1960s when the future Nobel Laureate was still a relatively unknown novelist working as a journalist and a scriptwriter to make ends meet. Had Buñuel decided to direct a movie based on García Márquez’ story, it would have almost surely become a cinema cult classic; however, the script arrived when Buñuel was totally immersed in the production of The Exterminating Angel and it appears that he never seriously considered taking up the project. The filmmaker makes no mention of it in his autobiography Mi Último Suspiro (published as My Last Breath in the U.K. and My Last Sigh in the United States).

As Jesús Ruiz Mantilla notes in today’s article, when Gabriel García Márquez sent the synopsis he was not yet the towering literary figure he would later become, whereas Buñuel was an acknowledged master in his field with the financial and critical leverage to drive his own projects forward. The resounding, if controversial, success of Viridiana  marked Buñuel’s return to Europe. Although he maintained his Mexican residence and citizenship, he was no longer forced to churn out low-budget movies there to make a living. The zeitgeist of the 1960s and 70s was aligned with his irreverent artistic vision and throughout these two decades he was able to direct big-budget films with international stars such as Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Denueve, and Delphine Seyrig that were well-received by international audiences and critics.

If Es tan fácil que hasta los hombres pueden never made it to the big screen, Buñuel did, in fact, collaborate with García Márquez in 1964, appearing as a village priest in En este pueblo no hay ladrones (There Are no Thieves in This Town), a movie based on a story written by García Márquez and directed by Alberto Isaac. The film is loaded with cameo roles played by friends and colleagues; the author himself assumed the role of a ticket taker in a movie theater and the artist Leonora Carrington appeared as one of several domino players. García Márquez was a friend and colleague of Luis Alcoriza, the scriptwriter who collaborated with Buñuel in Mexico. The three men moved in the same circles in Mexico, shared similar political convictions, and often attended the same social gatherings. In other circumstances, they might have ending up working together on not only the project García Márquez proposed in 1962, but also on many others. By the 1960s, however, the focus of Buñuel’s professional activities had shifted back to Europe. He now worked with collaborators that few filmmakers in their 60s could hope to find. Serge Silberman became his producer and a young French novelist named Jean-Claude Carrière began to collaborate with him on the screenplays for his films. Carrière recalls, “We were always alone in some remote place, often in Mexico or Spain, talking French and Spanish, without friends, without women, without wives. Absolutely no one around. Just the two of us. Eating together, working together, drinking together to get absolutely obsessed about the script we were working on. I calculated that we ate together, just the two of us, more than 2,000 times. Which is much more than many couples can say.” With Carrière, Buñuel could once again indulge in the surrealist games that he had invented with Salvador Dali decades earlier; they operated on the same creative wavelength.

The plot of Garcia Márquez’ forgotten screenplay revolved around three young female cousins who run up huge debts in the belief that their uncle has left each of them a sizeable inheritance. Although they have never met prior to the rude awakening that their shared inheritance is nothing more than a dilapidated gas station in an undesirable location, they roll up their sleeves and make the business a success. Javier Herrera, Buñuel expert and librarian of the Filmoteca Española (Spanish Film Archive), states in the el País article that he considers the script to be feminist from the title on down. We are left to wonder how it would have fared in the hands of Buñuel. In 2008, Mexican actor and director Rodolfo de Anda purchased the rights to another period García Márquez screenplay titled Frontera. As no film of this title appears in his biographies, it is possible that he was unable to take up the project before his death in 2010.


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