I've really come to love the work of Luis Buñuel over the past few years, and Simon of the Desert reminds me why, delivering a frequently hilarious religious satire that's still thoughtful and more nuanced than you might expect, especially given Buñuel's feelings about religion in general. The story of an ascetic who lives in a desert on the top of a pillar and the temptations he faces, Simon of the Desert is every bit as critical and sniping at organized religion as you might expect from Buñuel, whether it's nonplussed reactions to miracles, blind arguing about dogma without any knowledge, corruption, or more. But Simon is also more respectful and impressed with its title figure than you might assume, with Buñuel almost seeming to find honor in someone who's willing to dedicate his life to purity and to fight against the temptations of the world. Those temptations are most often presented in the form of Satan, played by a flirty, vivacious young woman whose jokes and suggestions do their best to get under Simon's skin. And through it all, there's Simon's mother, living nearby and doing her best to watch over her son, and seeming to possibly represent a form of love that everyone involved should be paying more attention to. It's all sharp and funny and thoughtful, and that's before the strange, unexpected climax, which jars the film out of its rhythm just as you think you've got it figured out. Simon of the Desert was intended as a feature but was ultimately made as a 45 minute short, and in some ways, that may be for the best; it keeps Buñuel from allowing any fat to get into the film, and makes for a more focused impact. As it stands, it's one of Buñuel's best films, no matter how long it may be.