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starring Catherine Deneuve, Fernando Rey, Franco Nero, Lola Gaos
screenplay by Luis Buñuel in collaboration with Julio Alejandro, based on the novel by Benito Pérez Galdós
directed by Luis Buñuel
by Angelo Muredda You might not think it from overdetermined schlock like Simon Birch, but disability is a tough trope to wrangle, an errant bodily signifier that doesn't always play nice. Just think of Million Dollar Baby, which tries and fails to use Hilary Swank's impairment as a narrative shortcut for Clint Eastwood's transformation into a tender father, troubled Catholic, and euthanizer-turned-agent of transcendence all at once. Eastwood the director has to stumble over the mechanics of his scene partner's newly-maimed body and horizontal status, fudging the timeline so that her bedsores appear to sprout within minutes of her injury and puzzling over how to frame her, whether as a head poking out of a hospital bed in the background or a wheelchair-sporting cyborg parked in dead centre, staring out her hospital window like a forlorn puppy. That representational awkwardness is so common that in disability studies, it even has a name: Ato Quayson calls it "aesthetic nervousness," meaning a text's tendency to collapse in a fit of nerves before the matter of how to represent a disabled body.