Hypocrites stalk the land with impunity, stuffing their faces and pockets while lecturing us proles on the need for self-sacrifice. Lord, we miss the Spanish surrealist and social critic Luis Buñuel, a brave and brilliant filmmaker who spent his career pricking the pomposities of the rich and pseudo-devout. Well, he's b-a-a-a-c-k: His unblinkingly perverse and blackly funny Tristana (1970), essentially unseen for decades and now restored and returned to theaters, depicts the "protection" and exploitation of a powerless innocent (Catherine Deneuve, dubbed in Spanish) by an older neoliberal aristocrat (Fernando Rey). .
Buñuel probed this power dynamic in several films -- it works on a number of levels as a metaphor for society at large -- yet his cynicism, unexpectedly, usually extended to the victim. In this case, Tristana achieves her revenge in due course and proves herself to be as cruel in her demented way as her mentor. Buñuel, who died in 1983, was of his time yet always ahead of his time; his subversive radicalism tinged with grim humor will inoculate you against a few weeks of bullshit spewed from on high.
Tristana starts Friday, Jan. 4 at Opera Plaza Cinemas, 601 Van Ness (at Turk), S.F. Admission is $8.25-$10.