T

he first of what Luis Buñuel later proclaimed a trilogy (along with The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty) about “the search for truth,” The Milky Way (La voie lactee) daringly deconstructs contemporary and traditional views on Catholicism with ribald, rambunctious surreality. Two French beggars, present-day pilgrims en route to Spain’s holy city of Santiago de Compostela, serve as Buñuel’s narrators for an anticlerical history of heresy, told with absurdity and filled with images that rank among Buñuel’s most memorable (stigmatic children, crucified nuns) and hilarious (Jesus considering a good shave). A diabolically entertaining look at the mysteries of fanaticism, The Milky Way remains a hotly debated work from cinema’s greatest skeptic.

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