Seven years ago, after publishing his biographies of Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí to great success, the Irish-born writer Ian Gibson set out to complete a project he’d been contemplating for a long time. Every so often, as he went about his research into the lives of the poet and the painter, he would come across the name of a filmmaker who had been a close friend of both men. Just in case, Gibson kept a file open on Luis Buñuel, and some time later figured that if he had already covered the first two cultural giants, it would only make sense to explore the third as well. After all, didn’t Lorca, Dalí and Buñuel make up the great trinity of 20th-century Spanish creators?
This white-haired, ruddy-faced Hispanist has always thought, as befits his Anglo tradition, that a country without biographies “is lame,” because its identity is incomplete. And when he found out that the director of Un chien andalou had only “a few biographical attempts” to his name even though he’d been dead for 30 years, Gibson was hooked.
“Not that I was really surprised,” says Gibson after producing nearly 1,000 pages, which will see the light in October under the title Luis Buñuel. La forja de un cineasta universal (1900-1938) (or, Luis Buñuel. The makings of a universal filmmaker). “You need to speak several languages and have written the biographies of Lorca and Dalí in order to publish a work about the life of Buñuel.”
It is a hot afternoon in the Lavapiés neighborhood of central Madrid. In between sips of cold water, surrounded by dozens of books, movies and folders that went into producing his new book, Gibson confesses he has just barely scratched the surface of Buñuel’s complex life. Certainly, it can be no easy task to follow the trail of somebody who lived in Spain, France, the US and Mexico; who filmed 32 movies that significantly influenced the film industry; who was obsessed with religion, eroticism, death, surrealism and exoticism; who rubbed elbows with some of the most important people of the century and was there for some of its most momentous events; and who, above all, was something of a “dark horse” who did not like to reveal the intimate truths about himself, and was accustomed to protecting himself with a mantle of deceit
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