Arch surrealist Luis Buñuel always enjoyed a succès de scandale
, and he rarely created a greater one than 1961's Viridiana
, in which he returned to his native Spain for his first film there since Franco took power, and seemingly had a lovely time biting the hand that fed him. Viridiana
has never enjoyed the broad circulation it deserves on home video, so any DVD release would be worthy of praise, but The Criterion Collection has (as usual) gone the extra mile to treat this masterpiece with richly earned respect. Viridiana
has been transferred to disc in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1, and has also been enhanced for anamorphic play on widescreen monitors. While there is some noticeable emulsion scratching during the first few minutes of the film, for the most part the source material looks very good, and the transfer is richly detailed (with a lovely palate of grey tones) as well as pin-sharp and brought to disc with a robust bit rate. The audio is mastered in Dolby Digital Mono and sounds nearly as good as the film looks; the dialogue is in Spanish, with optional English-language subtitles. Criterion has typically given this release a healthy portion of relevant bonus material. A profile of Buñuel created for French television in 1964 is included, and boasts interviews with a number of friends and colleagues as well as Buñuel himself, who seems to revel in his persona as a charming iconoclast. An interview with leading lady Silvia Pinal
also appears, as does a chat with author Richard Porton, who shares his thoughts on Buñuel's films. An amusingly overstated trailer promoting Viridiana
's American release rounds out this package, along with a 30-page booklet which includes an essay by Michael Wood and an interview with Buñuel. Once again, Criterion has given a landmark of European cinema a new lease on life in the North American home-video market, and this DVD is a must for anyone with even a passing interest in Buñuel and his films.