Censorship in Spain was, at the time, notorious for its petty formality, and since Viridiana’s original ending showed her knocking at her cousin’s door, entering, and the door closing slowly behind her, the board of censors rejected it out of hand. I had to invent a new one, which in the end was far more suggestive than the first because of its implications of a ménage à trois. In this second ending, Viridiana joins a card game being played between her cousin and his mistress. “I knew you’d end up playing tute with us,” the cousin smiles.
In any case, the film created a considerable scandal in Spain, much like the one provoked by L’Age d’or; but, happily, the hue and cry absolved me in the eyes of my Republican friends in Mexico. Hostile articles appeared in L’Osservatore Romano, and although the film won the Golden Palm at Cannes, it was outlawed in Spain. The head of the cinema institute in Madrid, who’d gone to Cannes to accept the award, was forced into a premature retirement because of it. Finally, the affair created such a storm that Franco himself asked to see it, and according to what the Spanish producers told me, he found nothing very objectionable about it. After all, given what he’d seen in his lifetime, it must have seemed incredibly innocent to him, but he nonetheless refused to overturn his minister’s decision.
In Italy, the film opened first in Rome, where it was well received, and then in Milan, where the public prosecutor immediately closed the theatre, impounded the reels, and sued me in court, where I was condemned to a year in jail if I so much as set foot in the country.
The whole affair still amazes me. I remember when [Producer Gustavo] Alatriste saw the film for the first time and had nothing to say about it. He saw it again in Paris, then twice in Cannes, and again in Mexico City, after which he rushed up to me, his face wreathed in smiles.
“Luis!” he cried happily. “You’ve done it! It’s wonderful! Now I understand it all!”
I had, and still have, no idea what he was talking about. It all seemed so simple to me—what was there to understand?
On the other hand, when [Vittorio] de Sica saw it in Mexico City, he walked out horrified and depressed. Afterwards, he and my wife, Jeanne, went to have a drink, and he asked her if I was really that monstrous, and if I beat her when we made love.
“When there’s a spider that needs getting rid of,” she replied, laughing, “he comes looking for me.”
— Luis Buñuel | My Last Sigh