The criticism of intent is a killer on bad films that have no real depth and do not last a few years beyond their intent’s purpose. Such was re-emphasized to me during a viewing of Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s vastly overrated black and white 1961 "shock classic" Viridiana.
Of course, all the alleged shock value had to do with Buñuel’s puerile attempts to poke fun at and scandalize both the Roman Catholic Church and the regime of Fascist dictator Francisco Franco, and nearly five decades later it looks more like a college prank video than any serious cinema. Furthermore, it is not in the least bit subversive, as many poor critics claim, because its criticism of the Church especially, even then, was so manifest as to make one wonder if those who claimed it had subversive qualities even knew what the term meant.
Of course, given Buñuel’s start as a Surrealist superstar - that overused and often misapplied term - it’s no surprise that much of his filmic career would be seen through such a pretentious lens, especially by fans masquing as critics, rather than dealing with the individual films, and whether they fail or not.
The fact is, while Viridiana is a reasonably capably made film on a technical level (although there is no standout cinematography, musical scoring, nor interesting visual compositions), it fails because its screenplay is abysmal. As in other "classics" of his whose luster has faded (think Belle De Jour), Viridiana is larded with cardboard characters, caricatures, and outright stereotypes that are bad enough alone, but given that they are not put to any truly subversive use, they are all the more a wasted effort. They also suggest the paper-thin grasp of reality, especially the political sort, that die hard Leftists like him are often represented as having, making him the biggest unintended caricature of all those associated with the film.
The lead titular character is a sexy, blond wannabe nun, perhaps nearing thirty, who has hidden away from the world after what seems to be a lifetime of failure — at life, love, relationships, and generally communicating and fitting in with others of the human race. She is cold, withdrawn, repressed; but unlike such heroines in an Ingmar Bergman film, she lacks any real depth to express these things to even herself. In short, she is a clueless wonder.