Jaco Van Dormael’s The Brand New Testament. Post 1: A slice of Buñuel.

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In the coming weeks I’ll be writing several posts on Jaco Van Dormael’s excellent religious satire ‘Le Tout Nouveau Testament’ (a.k.a. The Brand New Testament) focusing on links and references to other movies the director has put in his film. In this first post I’ll be focusing on the influence of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. Buñuels films are filled with images critizing organised religion and the almost inherent hypocrisy that Buñuels seems to detect among the clergy.
To give but a few examples, in La Voie Lactée (The Milky Way, 1969) one of the pilgrims dreams of assassinating the pope. At the end of Simón del desierto (Simon  of the Desert, 1965) a saint who stayed and prayed on a pilar in the middle of a desert for 6 years, 6 weeks and 6 days (yes indeed) gives up and ends up partying in a jazz club. In Viridiana (1961) a nun unsuccesfully tries to help the poor which leads to a famous scene parodying Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘the last supper’. Van Dormael does the same in Le Tout Nouveau Testament. (See pictures below)

The notorious Last Supper sequence in Luis Buñuel's VIRIDIANA.  

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Furthermore there’s the casting of Catherine Deneuve who in Le Tout Nouveau Testament picks up a young male prostitute kind of mirroring her role in Buñuel’s most succesful film Belle de Jour (1967). Deneuve off course also played the title character in another Buñuel film: Tristana (1970).

In the below clip I’ve prepared called Sea Breeze you can see Van Dormael also pays homage to some cinematic tricks Buñuel used in his first two and most (in)famous films: Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’ôr (1930). Both films are filled with dream or better nightmarish images that are still as powerfull now as they were at the time of their initial release (and for once that’s not an exaggeration).
There’s a particularly clever cinematic idea Buñuel used in Un Chien Andalou that perfectly visualises the dreamlike state the movie keeps up for its entire running time of about 15 minutes. Towards the end of the film a woman and a man are having a fight and she leaves the room and sticks out her tongue at him. In the next room (or hallway) in the distance she sees another man she knows standing on a beach, which makes no logical sense since she’s still in the interior of a house. To smooth out the transistion form the interior to the beach exterior you’ll notice Buñuel introduced wind in the exterior part of the scene which blows in her hair and moves her scarf.
In L’Age d’ôr made a year later Buñuel used the same trick again. A women is sitting on a chair in front of a mirror and her mind wonders of. We hear sounds of the wind (to know why there’s also sounds of cowbells and a barking dog you’ll have to see the film) and we see her hair move, as do the flowers next do the mirror which again makes no sense as the scene is set in an interior. On top of this the mirror is suddenly showing a cloudfilled sky.
Next up there’s also a clip from Barton Fink (1991) in which a writer with writer’s block starts to fantasize about a woman in a picture sitting on a beack overlooking the ocean. The writer ends up in the painting meeting the woman of his fantasies. The Coen Brothers only used sounds to make the transistion from an interior set to an exterior beach location.

In the part of The Brand New Testament dealing with the sexually-frustrated third apostle there’s a scene in which Van Dormael adopts the same techniques used by the masters that have proceeded him. As an inside joke the scene is followed by a scene in a hairdresser saloon where the boys hair is blown dry with the use of a hair dryer. In my opinion this scene is also refering to Patrice Leconte’s Le Mari de la Coiffeusse (The Hairdresser’s Husband, 1990), no footage of that film is used in this clip.
To end the comparison clip there’s a short scene from Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Belles Familles (2015) which showcases a subtle use of the same technique. A young woman is sitting in a car and is looking out the window and sees a beach and some kids running or riding a bike. The scene in the car is shot in a studio in front of blue screen with the exteriors added digitally later on in post. The wind going through her hair creates the illusion (movie magic) she’s really sitting in a car that’s riding on a road near a beach.

The next post will feature a similar comparison clip called Mirror Image.

Jan Bollen

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