Review: A Woman Without Love

Luis Buñuel’s jabs at society’s oppression of women are limp only by his standards.

A Woman Without Love
Photo: Plexus

After Susana, Luis Buñuel would direct the little-seen La Hija del Engaño (Daughter of Deceit), a loose remake of Carlos Arniche’s play Don Quintín el Amargao (Don Quintin the Bitter), which Buñuel had helped to adapt for the screen back in 1935 for Spanish director Luis Marquina. “Then came A Woman Without Love, which is quite simply the worst movie I ever made,” says Buñuel in his autobiography. The film was supposed to be a remake of André Cayatte’s 1943 film version of Guy de Maupassant’s Pierre et Jean. “I’d been told to set up a screen on the set and just copy Cayatte’s movie scene by scene. Not surprisingly, I made it my own way, but it was still a disaster,” wrote Buñuel. Though arguably his worst film, A Woman Without Love is nothing more than a perfectly routine melodrama that most directors would be happy to call their best. Rosario (Rosario Granados) lives in swank quarters with her older husband Don Carlos Montero (Julio Villarreal) and their young son Carlitos, who runs away from home after being accused of petty theft. Carlitos is found and returned to his family by engineer and diehard romantic Julio Mistral (Tito Junco), who woes an unhappy Rosario when the family comes to visit him in the woods. Bound by loyalty to her family, Rosario rejects Julio’s love and grows old next to her ailing husband.

Years later, an older Carlitos (Jaime Calpe) and his younger brother Miguel (Cordero Loya) prepare to purchase a clinic for their medical endeavors when the family is notified of Mistral’s death. Though Miguel never met Mistral, he curiously inherits the man’s entire fortune. When a nurse’s advances are rejected by the debonair Carlitos, the woman’s gossipy slurs maliciously point at the sordid family secret that links Miguel to the deceased Mistral. Carlitos discovers that Miguel is Mistral’s bastard child and A Woman Without Love comes alive via a claustrophobic Shakespearean gravitas that pours out from every crevice of the film’s surface. Carlitos is hopelessly in love with a female doctor, Luisa (Elda Peralta), who doesn’t return his affections. Luisa marries Miguel not long after he inherits his fortune, making it entirely too easy for Carlitos to question her motivations. Carlitos refuses money from Miguel and tragically denies Rosario his love. This man consumed by jealously and deceit inadvertently brought Rosario and Mistral together when he was only a child. Now he emotionally cripples his mother and loses faith in all women as a result. It’s not long before Rosario defends her honor and fidelity (“Mine was not a shameful affair, only an impossible union”) and, in turn, easily shatters Carlito’s sexist ideals. Buñuel jabs at society’s oppression of women are limp and the finale is entirely too facile for a film that deserved (and was suspiciously geared for) a more Hitchcockian wind-down.

 Cast: Rosario Granados, Jaime Calpe, Joaquín Cordero, Cordero Loya, Tito Junco, Elda Peralta, Julio Villarreal  Director: Luis Buñuel  Screenwriter: Luis Buñuel, Jaime Salvador  Distributor: Plexus  Running Time: 91 min  Rating: NR  Year: 1951  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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