and the Modernist/Postmodernist Question
Buñuel was very attracted to feet, particularly women's feet. Feet
and all their paraphernalia; stockings, shoes, shoe store sales la-
dies, etc. He also liked legs quite a lot, and stockings. For Buñuel,
a woman starts at her feet.
—Pedro Almodóvar, 1998
TAKEN from the first lines of an essay written by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar promoting the North American release of his motion picture Carne trémula (Live Flesh, 1997), the above epigraph serves as an amusing reminder of Luis Buñuel's obsession with obscure objects of desire, but it also serves as an indirect means of approaching the role objects play in the ways we communicate.1 Like Almodóvar, scholars note similar repetitions and variations of the same objects throughout Buñuel's long film career, offering numerous readings as to their possible symbolism.2 However, these perplexing images—when, for example, Buñuel places a lady's shoe under a living room couch in the comic film noir Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal of a crime/The criminal life of Archibaldo de la Cruz, 1955)—almost never lead to discussions of the empty space such objects occupy; that is to say, critics rarely ponder why the subject (usually determined by the male gaze) simply ignores one object and finds that another is a sublime fit.3 More importantly, those few who psychoanalyze the very emptiness of the object (in terms of how it serves as the embodiment of a certain lack in the Lacanian sense) usually fail to situate such instances within a certain historical or ideological framework, focusing instead on Buñuel's art as if it were a world of freely floating signifiers which make no reference to a specific place and time.4 Such conclusions would allow us, perhaps even inadvertently, to characterize Buñuel as a postmodernist. But could we also think of Buñuel as a modernist, that is to say, an artist who