Luis Buñel’s ultimate male fantasy: Not two women, but two sides of one arousal. A rich, elderly Frenchman on a train (Mathieu, Fernando Rey) douses water on a woman standing at the platform and then tells fellow passengers his sad story. He fell for his maid, Conchita. But it’s a twofold tease.
Buñel’s Conchita is the stunning French actress Carole Bouquet, provocative but austere, and Ángela Molina, a Spanish beauty. He interchanges Bouquet and Molina in Mathieu’s flashbacks to establish aspects of class and coquetry.
Mathieu idealizes his own vanity through two erotically wired women who may or may not actually look like Conchita the maid. Mathieu is the rake, Conchita the woman with everything to gain from his riches so long as she manipulates her sexuality. Meanwhile, terrorists disrupt the idyll (this was the time of the Red Brigades and the Red Army Fraction — yes, “Fraction,” not “Faction.”). Buñel is a juggler playing with several charged subversions at once.