(aka 'Simon of the Desert')

Mexico 1965

Simon of the Desert is Luis Bu˝uel’s wicked and wild take on the life of devoted ascetic Saint Simeon Stylites, who waited atop a pillar surrounded by a barren landscape for six years, six months, and six days, in order to prove his devotion to God. Yet the devil, in the figure of the beautiful Silvia Pinal, huddles below, trying to tempt him down. A skeptic’s vision of human conviction, Bu˝uel’s short and sweet satire is one of the master filmmaker’s most renowned works of surrealism.


Forty-three minutes of perfect filmmaking (1965). Luis Bu˝uel tells the story of San Simeon Stylites, the desert martyr who stood for 25 years atop a pillar, and the efforts of the devil to coax him down. Since the devil is played by Mexican musical star Silvia Pinal, her temptations aren't the usual ones. Bu˝uel's wit is piercingly sharp, his timing impeccable, and his visual style superbly unobtrusive and naturalistic--proving again how much realism is required in surrealism.

Excerpt from Dave Kehr at the Chicago reader located HERE



Theatrical Release: February 11th, 1965

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

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CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #460 - Region 1 - NTSC
Other Luis Bu˝uel’s films on Criterion DVD
Runtime 45:30 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 8.26 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s 

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• A Mexican Bu˝uel (1995), 55-minute documentary by Emilio MaillÚ
•  New interview with actress Silvia Pinal (6:38)
• 40-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Wood and a reprinted interview with Bu˝uel

DVD Release Date: February 10th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 9



So far, most of the Mexican Luis Bu˝uel films have looked fairly weak when brought over to DVD. Criterion's Simon of the Desert should easily be the best video transfer to date. It starts out with a smattering of speckles and haziness but very quickly, quite probably with the help of Criterion's digital restoration, starts to look quiet strong. Generally speaking it appears smooth and reasonably blemish free. Light vertical scratches occasionally seem hidden just beneath the surface and contrast is typically competent with grain and noise both visible. 

We haven't seen this for a while and thought the practice discontinued but this Criterion DVD transfer is pictureboxed (see our description of 'pictureboxing' in our Kind Hearts and Coronets review). Criterion have included a thick black border around the edge of the frame to counter overscan on production-made television sets.

I believe both Simon of the Desert and The Exterminating Angel are available in a French DVD set but I do not own to compare. This Criterion DVD has original mono sound and optional English subtitles.


Extras: A Mexican Bu˝uel is a 55-minute documentary by Emilio MaillÚ made in 1997. It centers on the years Luis Bu˝uel spent in Mexico making many lauded films. At less than an hour it seems too short to fully cover the topics broached. Certain masterpieces like Los Olvidados and Simon are covered with interview excerpts from sources directly involved in the projects. This is an excellent primer for those keen on the directors essential Mexican work. We are also given a short interview with actress Silvia Pinal, who also played Viridiana, as well as 'The Devil' here in Simon. She gives her bright-eyed reflections on the production. There is also a great 40-page liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Wood and a reprinted interview with Bu˝uel.

Without forming a debate this may be another of Bu˝uel's best films - with the certain potential for a larger critical acceptance of this had he been able to complete it as a full feature. It was his last work in Mexico and even at only 45 minutes it shows his usual depth and some incredible cinematography by native Mexican Gabriel Figueroa.  I think the film probably warrants a commentary and am a bit surprised that one wasn't included.

The vast majority of Bu˝uel's films have reached DVD accessibility with Criterion producing the lion's share - with the best transfers and most viable extra features. I believe I am partial to the Mexican period as my personal favorite and hope Criterion continue with more exposure from that selection of work - or even through an Eclipse boxset.  This particular DVD of Simon of the Desert is essential.

Gary W. Tooze


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CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine #460 - Region 1 - NTSC
Other Luis Bu˝uel’s films on Criterion DVD


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