Perversity and Post-Marxian Thought in Buñuel's Late Films

Chad Trevitte


This article examines certain motifs from Luis Buñuel's late bourgeois trilogy--The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie (Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie, 1972), The Phantom of Liberty (Le Fantôme de la Liberté, 1974), and That Obscure Object of Desire (Cet Obscur Objet du Désir, 1977)--in order to show how they anticipate key trends in contemporary post-Marxian philosophy. In doing so, it draws upon the work of Slavoj Žižek, whose Lacanian revision of Hegel has provided a model of ideology critique that preserves the structure of dialectical thought while avoiding the impulse to project a closed vision of subjectivity and historical change. In particular, such a model offers a means of reconsidering Buñuel’s concern with the perverse. Rather than having a singular ideological content (i.e., the repressed desire for freedom within bourgeois consciousness), the perverse in Buñuel’s films serves as a more volatile index of ideological conflict: freedom becomes perverse from the perspective of law, and law becomes perverse from the perspective of freedom. To recognize these dialectical reversals not only offers a means of appreciating Buñuel’s sense of humor, but also sheds light on how the late films situate "bourgeois" and "revolutionary" impulses in a much more complex, interdependent, and dynamic relationship with one another.


Buñuel; Žižek; Hegel; Lacan; Marxism; post-Marxism; perversity; The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie; The Phantom of Liberty; That Obscure Object of Desire

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