Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#26 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Dec 02, 2017 12:23 am

I don't see Bunuel as nearly so limited as you do, Black Hat. And I find OOoD _far_ funnier than Tristana (albeit often rather painfully funny).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#27 Post by Black Hat » Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:26 am

Oh I love Bunuel and wouldn't say not finding his films to be entirely rewatchable is a sign of his limitations as a director at all. I think it's a compliment as sometimes you're so satisfied with an experience that you realize it's best to leave it there because you won't ever be able to top it. I feel that way about a number of Bunuel's films and also the last time I did mushrooms, but that's a whole other story.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#28 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:01 pm

Oh well, I find most Bunuel quite rewatchable. ;-)

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#29 Post by bottled spider » Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:14 am

Black Hat wrote:Of the about 15 Bunuels I've seen the one I go back to the most is Tristana.
I've probably revisited Tristana more than any other one, too. Not that it's my favourite (I fell it drags as it goes on), but it has a an abiding mystery that draws me back.

The scene transitions are interesting:
- two juxtapositions that struck me as poetic: Tristana & Don Lope's first kiss cuts to Saturna grinding coffee; a woman on a park bench dandling her baby cuts to Saturna stirring hot chocolate on the stove.
- from Don Lope closing the bedroom door as he prepares to lie down with Tristana, we cut abruptly to soldiers quelling a demonstration. As the demonstrators are chased down the street, the camera finds Saturno cowering in the doorway of what turns out to be Don Lope's household. The protest is dropped, and we segue back into a scene of domesticity. An odd way of linking that anticipates The Phantom of Liberty.
- the artful intercutting of Tristana's first encounter with the painter and the shooting of the rabid dog.
- it's often ambiguous at first whether a long or short time has elapsed between one scene and the next; the new scene is allowed to progress a ways before the ambiguity is resolved. I think this is a deliberate strategy to keep the viewer off balance.

It's certainly a very attractive film, with its Toledo setting, and Deneuve of course.
Black Hat wrote:... or the opposing parallels between Deneuve and Rey ...a larger commentary on how fucked up society's expectations of gender are...
One example being illness: men are indulged, while women are expected to be stoic. Don Lopes is cosseted over his cold; Tristana is chaffed for her "sore knee" (shortly to be amputated).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#30 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:55 pm

Three first-time viewings and a revisit. The first two I saw on French DVDs (no English subtitles unfortunately).

La hija del engaño (Daughter of Deceit). Fernando Soler played the patriarch figure in Susana and has a similar role in this comedy about the long-term consequences following his decision to get rid of his infant daughter after catching his wife cheating on him. Not so much satire as just a conventional farce. The acting is solid and there are some amusing side characters but the vitality and comic moments featured in the beginning don’t carry all the way through, when the pedestrian source material catches up with the director.


El río y la muerte (The River and Death). A murderous vendetta between two families governs the lives of the residents of an isolated village, from which one citizen has tried to extricate himself with distance and education. There’s a strange structure to this film, where a good 2/3 of it is a flashback to past incidents in this repetitive and primitive tradition of “honor and courage” between the protagonists’ ancestors, and the question after that is whether the cycle will repeat itself. This is almost a western, but it’s quite conventional and it’s hard for me to see an authorial presence, apart from another riff on the stupidity of man (and maybe also the very minor figure of the priest who wants things to remain as they are, rather than being on the side of progress). That flashback gives the “present” a bit more depth when you return to it in the end, but it takes out whatever minor narrative umph there was.

I had a bit more hope in this one given that Bunuel showed affection for it in his autobiography, and I can discern qualities in the execution (one bit being the pictorial symbolism around the “river of death” that murdering citizens have to cross) so that I can easily imagine the film having its fans, but the script (Bunuel’s and a co-writer's, adapting from a novel) was way too average for me. Deserving of a watch but not a film I would care all that much to revisit. (This one is available on youtube, but without subtitles as far as I can see.)


El Gran Calavera (The Great Madcap). Soler as the (wealthy, upper-middle-class) patriarch once again, who after losing his wife is drinking and partying himself into oblivion, and his family and servants trick him so that he regains respectability and responsibility. More plot twists follow until the narrative focuses more on the daughter’s marriage predicament. Bunuel’s second Mexican film, and one he had to do to get a chance to do Los olvidados. Compared even to another artistically conservative film like Daughter of Deceit, there’s not much local color here; it’s pretty much in the mold of a rigidly orthodox, near-screwball Hollywood comedy. Competent but really undistinguished and somewhat of a chore to get through.

(Watched this one on youtube, with English subtitles. Many hard-to-get 50s Bunuels are currently on there, though probably most not English-friendly.)


Nazarin. A priest’s following the actual commandments of Christ leads him to lead a similar life and destiny. The film is first-rate because there’s a mystery and subtlety at play here: on the one hand you have the typically Bunuelian perspective where the religious man’s beliefs and deeds change nothing in this squalid world where almost everyone is uncharitable and selfish (and surely there is nevertheless a parallel in the Christ story where His goodness doesn’t annihilate all of the ugliness around him) – in some situations they even seem to worsen things; on the other hand the man is nevertheless not a figure of ridicule but admirable, and for example inspires and moves his two prostitute disciples (for a time anyway) whatever the ultimate consequences of that may be. And then there are these sometimes strange or amusing sequences having to do with the other characters that aren’t in the service necessarily of this theme, so that the film cannot be reduced to a single-minded thesis.

It’s also a really handsome, pictorially striking film, and this seems to capture Bunuel at the summit of his art. I don’t understand why Criterion neglects 50s/Mexican Bunuel (unless it’s a rights issue?) – this one and Los Olvidados should have been part of the collection years ago.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#31 Post by knives » Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:46 pm

My understanding is that it is mostly a rights issue. Many Mexican films from the '50s are owned by Lionsgate in the US.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#32 Post by Feego » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:06 pm

That's definitely the case with Nazarin, which is available on R1 DVD from Lionsgate, but without English subs.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#33 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Dec 03, 2017 6:27 pm

This is my copy (also R1) of Nazarin, which has English subs (for those who don't know it's available). Image is definitely acceptable. Sound really isn't great, very bassy at the beginning, but improves as it goes on.

An Amazon reviewer has a similar take on this edition:
The picture quality of this particular DVD is fairly good; the print itself is sharp and clear, though there are occasional scratches and other defects in the film. There is also some occasional flicker as well, as though it were not quite mastered properly, but this was very minor and barely noticeable. The sound is poor, however, and the translation in the English subtitles is a bit dubious at times.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#34 Post by Black Hat » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:52 pm

I dont know where to suggest this so I'll do it here.

It would really be great if one of you made a sticky thread that listed upcoming submission deadlines for various list projects.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#35 Post by swo17 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:56 pm


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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#36 Post by Black Hat » Tue Dec 05, 2017 4:12 pm

No not like that.

I meant something that had it in the actual title so you'd know to click on it as I'm sure I'm not the only one who until your link never clicked on a thread titled 'rules and procedures' which has the feel of reading thru the terms and conditions document you get with the latest ios update.

A clean, simple, easy to read thread titled say 'Upcoming Deadlines' where you'd only have deadlines of current projects. Is it the biggest deal? No. All I can tell you is if such a thread existed I would have submitted a lot more lists and I thought bringing up the level of participation was a goal around here, but if you want to be snarky about it by pointing out I'm lazy, yes, yes I am lazy. That was my point.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#37 Post by swo17 » Tue Dec 05, 2017 4:30 pm

I wasn't being snarky and I didn't call you lazy. Here you go.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#38 Post by Black Hat » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:26 pm

Word. Thank you.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#39 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Dec 10, 2017 3:49 pm

Ensayo de un crimen (The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz). A film that you would imagine Hitchcock having liked, with its preposterous, sadistic-ironic premise: a man tries to kill women and every time he fails but they wind up shortly thereafter getting killed or dying by other means. The way that sounds, you imagine Bunuel milking it but he plays it very straightforwardly. Aside from a few scenes and shots – like the one where Lavinia’s store model double is carried to her “death” -, the comedic or perversely humorous aspect is kept in the background, until the very end. The result is that what is ultimately a black comedy often plays as a (melo)drama, despite the eccentricity. From that angle, I’d say it’s both a little too cold and unfeeling and not satirical enough at the same time. But that’s being hypercritical - this is still a standout among the 50s work, and there’s quite enough to admire and enjoy here – including the surprise at the presence of such kinky sexuality this early on.

By the way, the fetishization and dismemberment of the female body here definitely prefigures scenes in the later Moreau and Deneuve movies.

Image

Image

Image


L’Age d’or. I always enjoy this one. The film resists attempts at making sense of it in a full and integrated, and there are some bits that are really beyond the grasp of any rational explanation – I’m thinking of the beginning of the second of the three “parts” with the beggar-soldiers and how they behave towards each other. There’s a celebration of absurdism throughout. At the same time the film is a politico-philosophical attack on bourgeois civilization, with the Church particularly going in for some heavy ridicule, but really all civilization as such. But then there’s also the strong Surrealist glorification of the antirational instincts of violence and eros, manifestated in all sorts of forms throughout the film.

I think it was the Surrealist French writer André Breton who came up with the idea of “l’amour fou”, which makes up a strong motif in the last chunk of the film, the extolling of the life-and-chaos-inducing force of desire/love which knows and respects no reasonableness or limits, and at the same time, in the film (as in later Bunuel films), is frustrated.

As I was listening to one of the extras on the new Bunuel box set with the film scholar Peter W. Evans going on about this theme being present in the Fernando Rey character in Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie, I thought back to L’Age d’or but also how recurrent and therefore central it is throughout Bunuel’s oeuvre: El (This Strange Passion) and That Obscure Object of Desire, notably, but Susana also comes to mind, as does the director's choice to do Wuthering Heights, as well as a character like the gangster youth Marcel in Belle de Jour, who becomes obsessed with Séverine. Even in a film like La Fièvre monte à El Pao, there is a dangerous, intense love affair between the Gérard Philippe and Maria Felix characters that proves both impossible and fatal, and which is intertwined with, and plays a causal role in, the political violence at the center of the story. I’m sure there are other examples.


Cet Obscur Objet du désir. It’s always tempting to make sense of aspects of the films that very likely are there for unmotivated reasons. Here we have the notorious use of two actresses to play the same role. But the duality of the French and the Spanish actresses does echo the radical and constantly alternating changes in Conchita’s attitude towards Mathieu. And then there’s the interesting duality also of the constant back-and-forth traveling between Paris and Spain. The bourgeois Mathieu’s constantly frustrated attempts at consuming his desire would itself fit nicely the classic Lacanian theory of desire, and is in line with Bunuel’s own, decades-old old surrealist exploration of the incompatibility (?) of irrational desire and civilization.

The violence here also piques my curiosity. As in Le Charme discret, there are unmotivated intrusions of violent terrorist action, that here seem even less connected to the narrative. It’s like another force of disorder erupting out of the impossible and tenuous order that the bourgeois civilization tries to create. The links back to L’Age d’or are clear.

On this point, watching Archibaldo de la Cruz again earlier in the week, I noticed how this film that is framed tightly around an enclosed narrative world that takes place in, again, a middle class world, has nevertheless at its margins (manifested in the very first frames of the film) unrelated, violent political action, action which in the story ends up having an important impact on the form that Archibaldo’s obsession takes.


Le Journal d’une femme de chambre. Formally a lot more conventional than many other Bunuel films. On the other hand, Bunuel and Carrière’s adaption of the novel is situated in 1930s France (rather than the 19th century), creating a milieu that is as politically reactionary and as it morally retrograde. (The setting is somewhat reminiscent of the Bernanos-Bresson world in Diary of a Country Priest.) What starts off as a satirical comedy turns serious and dramatic once the crucial disturbing plot element comes into play. It isn’t Bunuel’s most overwhelming film but is consistently interesting, visually quite beautiful and accomplished, with fine acting from the performers, especially Moreau, and excellent little directorial touches here and there. (Lots of small, wonderful segments involving animals here, indeed as frequently through his films.)

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#40 Post by knives » Tue Dec 12, 2017 10:18 pm

That is the Dawn is the sort of high quality, straight laced melodrama that should give Bunuel a much more complex reputation than he has. It's not top ten material, but it is better than a few of his most popular films. It's basically the sort of class trouble you'd expect from a Mexican film of the era (though this one is in French) and really does reflect a class understanding more in that culture's terms with even the set dressing looking much more Mexican. It also highlights what makes Bunuel such a great satirist even as this film is too much in the melodrama genre to be a pure satire. The landowner is the horrible and uncaring person you'd expect by both genre convention and Bunuel's known sympathies, but the film all the same imbues a sympathy and maybe even love onto the landowner making his final scenes genuinely sad with many of his loved ones hurt in a way that the film can't help but agree with.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#41 Post by Rayon Vert » Sun Dec 17, 2017 3:27 pm

(In this run the films prior to the 60s are new for me.)

Simon of the Desert. Enjoyable but slight. It’s hard to know what to make of this one, other than Bunuel continuing to exorcize his Catholic heritage and furthering his art and creativity. Even as he makes fun of them, one senses in Bunuel a continuing fascination in the more unusual eccentricities of the religious impulse, so that perhaps there’s a Surrealist-friendly attraction to the strangeness of these lunacies.


A Woman without Love. Like the preceding film Daughter of Deceit, a story about long-term consequences to early family secrets, in this case one of two sons being the progeny of his mother’s affair with a lover, but this time in a dramatic mode. This is Bunuel’s adaptation of a Maupassant novel by way of a film (Pierre et Jean) by Cayatte, an extremely orthodox family melodrama. The director said it was his worst movie. I don’t know about that – I didn’t find it bad but just completely ordinary. I guess for Bunuel that is bad.


Illusion Travels by Streetcar. Two disillusioned, drunk tram drivers take a decommissioned streetcar out for a ride at night, but then find themselves stuck having to continue running it and fearing for their jobs. The characters are the working poor rather than the more usual middle class, and socio-political commentary is present (a character notes that inflation is just making the poor poorer and the rich richer, for example), although Bunuel didn’t write the script. (However, in his bio Bunuel said one of the things that he still reveres surrealism for was their attack on the very idea of work, and that in his view salaried work is “fundamentally humiliating”. This film’s theme certainly sympathizes with that spirit.) That said, this is mostly just a farce, but actual laughs are few. Kind of forgettable.


Las Hurdes. The existence of the abject poor in a barren, remote region of Spain – starvation, illness, death. Shocking and depressing. (The important written text at the film’s conclusion spells out a political message that these conditions are avoidable with proper government action.) Painful to watch also are the suffering animal scenes (a donkey killed by bees, a goat falling off the rocks, chickens getting their heads torn off), recalling in the evoked emotion the scorpion and rat sequence in L’Age d’or (or the tortured goose in Diary of a Chambermaid). In both cases we have incongruous classical music underscoring the violence.


Tristana. I like some of the details of the film – the Toledo setting, the morally ambiguous character of Don Lope, who is definitely not all bad (at one point he is a mouthpiece for Bunuel’s feelings about work, as expressed in My Last Sigh) -, but I find the film story- and ambition-wise a little minor and lacking, a little been-here done-that for Bunuel. Unlike some of the comments here, although there is clearly a strongly defined color theme (mostly beiges and browns), I find the appeal that there is comes from the exterior Toledo sequences, not the photography itself, which is disappointing coming after The Milky Way. For me, the film’s small charms don’t overcome the lack of a stronger aim.


Cela s’appelle l’aurore (That Is the Dawn). Knives is right about the socio-political dimension of the film. A socially conscious doctor working in a poor Corsican sea village breaks with his own class when it comes to defending one of its economically/politically oppressed citizens. (Shades of Las Hurdes when a key plot point is a character’s illness leading to death because of those social circumstances.) The romantic aspect of the story is a bit undeveloped and wasted. Not bad but I’d rate this as the lesser of the three 50s French films. (L’Age d’or’s Gaston Modot is here playing a secondary role.)


La Voie lactée (The Milky Way). This is such an accomplished and delightful film. This idea of making a film about the various Catholic heresies of points of dogma through a road movie, mixing the picaresque adventures of its two modern-day “pilgrims” with historical scenes (some of which, as with the ghosts in the The Discreet Charm, feature characters that interact with the main protagonists), is one of Bunuel’s most brilliant, and he really succeeds here in making the most out of it. Every vignette is ingenuous and fun, and the settings and photography throughout are terrific, creating an end result that has quite a bit of magic to it. There’s also a great use of a huge stable of actors, many of them appearing in other Bunuel films.

On the topic of the film’s main theme, Bunuel really succeeds in showing the madness (albeit a frequently quirkily interesting and perhaps even perversely seductive one) of people governing their entire worldview and lives, with everything that that entails, according to a set of abstract, conceptual ideas.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#42 Post by bottled spider » Tue Dec 19, 2017 5:07 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:La Voie lactée (The Milky Way). This is such an accomplished and delightful film. This idea of making a film about the various Catholic heresies of points of dogma through a road movie, mixing the picaresque adventures of its two modern-day “pilgrims” with historical scenes (some of which, as with the ghosts in the The Discreet Charm, feature characters that interact with the main protagonists), is one of Bunuel’s most brilliant, and he really succeeds here in making the most out of it. Every vignette is ingenuous and fun, and the settings and photography throughout are terrific, creating an end result that has quite a bit of magic to it. There’s also a great use of a huge stable of actors, many of them appearing in other Bunuel films.
Buñuel really gets the recipe right with this one. The pilgrimage lends both movement (avoiding the stifling atmosphere, or feeling of treading water, in some of his other late masterpieces) and structure (where Phantom of Liberty, say, is too loose).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#43 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 19, 2017 6:49 pm

I really liked Illusion Travels By Streetcar when I saw it ages ago (sans subtitles, I believe). I would love to see it with subtitles (in a good edition). I bet I would still like it a lot. The humor worked for me -- and there was a relatively high level of kindheartedness (for a Bunuel film).

When I watch Milky Way, I think of Monty Python (which is a good thing).

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#44 Post by Rayon Vert » Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:00 pm

Illusion Travels is on youtube with subtitles, but not in a good edition!

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#45 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:52 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:Illusion Travels is on youtube with subtitles, but not in a good edition!
I suspect that having this in a good looking (as well as well-subbed) edition would very much increase one's enjoyment of the film.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#46 Post by bottled spider » Wed Dec 20, 2017 4:35 pm

Rayon Vert wrote:Illusion Travels is on youtube with subtitles, but not in a good edition!
Thanks for that. I've never watched a movie via YouTube -- the idea of it offends my delicate sensibilities -- but I may have to resort to it in this case. I've long wanted to see this.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#47 Post by Rayon Vert » Wed Dec 20, 2017 8:50 pm

bottled spider wrote:
Rayon Vert wrote:Illusion Travels is on youtube with subtitles, but not in a good edition!
Thanks for that. I've never watched a movie via YouTube -- the idea of it offends my delicate sensibilities -- but I may have to resort to it in this case. I've long wanted to see this.
You're welcome. It's definitely a last resort for me too, but I watched Illusion, Las Hurdes, El Gran Calavera (all with Eng subtitles) on there, as well as This Is the Dawn. With the last one there's a cropped image one with the original French audio (no subtitles unfortunately), and another one with a fairly good, full image, but Russian dubbed. They're running different speeds but I was able watch the good video while listening to the French track (which I understand) of the other one through adjusting the speed after downloading. If there are Russian but not Spanish speakers here, here's your chance!

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#48 Post by Rayon Vert » Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:40 pm

There are two 1936-37 Spanish films not listed here that Bunuel unofficially co-directed. Has anyone here seen them? Apparently ¡Centinela, alerta! (available to see on YT with English subtitles) had Jean Grémillon as the main director, with Bunuel stepping in only when Grémillon became ill. I'm not too keen on watching it given that Bunuel was a last-minute add-in (even though he supervised these films, which he later disowned), and that it doesn't sound very good. I wonder if he had a more substantial role in 1936's Quién me quiere a mí?

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#49 Post by swo17 » Fri Dec 22, 2017 11:47 pm

I actually created the subtitles for the former. It's worth seeing, but ineligible for this list.

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Re: Auteur List: Luis Buñuel - Discussion and Defenses

#50 Post by Rayon Vert » Sat Dec 23, 2017 12:18 am

Wow that's cool. Thanks swo.

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