Bunuel home more ordinary than his films


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MEXICO CITY -- Down a narrow, dead-end street in a middle-class neighborhood of Mexico City, a three-story brick house with white window frames gives up no hint of the bizarre, even shocking images that were dreamed up inside.

Luis Bunuel, known as the father of surrealist cinema, lived in the simple, gated house over the last 30 years of his life after settling in Mexico as an exile from post-civil war Spain.

For a man who assaulted moviegoers with such shots as an ant-infested hand, an eyeball sliced open with a straight razor, and elegant diners sitting on toilets, Bunuel enjoyed a surprisingly genteel life here.

Now, the Spanish government, which bought the house from Bunuel's family, has opened the house to a public long fascinated with his work. The plan is to turn the building into a meeting place for Spanish and Mexican moviemakers, with workshops and occasional exhibits staged to celebrate Spanish-language cinema. The inauguration has been timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Bunuel's death in the Mexican capital.

Critics still regard Bunuel as one of cinema's greatest directors with movies such as "L'Age d'Or" and "That Obscure Object of Desire" pushing the boundaries of both taste and narrative.

Despite that colorful legacy, Bunuel's home is being presented as simply as the director left it, and not with the museum treatment given to the much-visited Mexico City abodes of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky and surrealist painter Frida Kahlo.

In fact, Bunuel never imagined his house as a representation of his work, unlike Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's Southern California home, which is filled with images of the monsters and heroes of his films.

In the 1964 French documentary "A Filmmaker of Our Time," a paranoid Bunuel said he hardly ever left the "small house with a garden," secluding himself from the world because of his deafness.

Bunuel's house opened as a pilot exhibit in December 2011 to mark the 50th anniversary of his film "Viridiana," which the Vatican once qualified as blasphemous for showing a man almost raping his niece, a novice, and then committing suicide.

The home closed again in May 2012 before reopening last week with a round-table discussion featuring filmmakers, journalists and an actress who appeared in his films.

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