best film:  Fernando Rey is a major component of both of Luis Buñuel’s best two films: Viridiana (1960) and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972). He plays Don Jaime in Viridiana and Don Rafael Acosta in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. There is not much separating the two – both are masterpieces. Rey has a third masterpiece on his resume as well – he plays the drug trafficker (and another character with a position of evil and power/wealth) Alain Charnier in The French Connection (1971) this time not with Buñuel of course, but with William Fredkin.


best performance:  There is some healthy debate to be had here between each of Rey’s top four (4) performances – each of them coming from his collaborations with Buñuel. He kills it in his few minutes on screen in Viridiana – and that feels like the correct answer on a best performance per minute average. Ultimately though, Rey gets a little more room in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and that edges out the others for the top slot.


Fernando Rey as Don Rafael Acosta in The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) – a formal and comedic masterwork from the great Luis Buñuel


stylistic innovations/traits:  Fernando Rey is a Spanish actor who often gets mistaken for being French. This mistake happens because Rey is best known by many for The French Connection – makes sense – he also worked with Buñuel often during Buñuel’s French phase (including three of their four archiveable films together). Rey was born in 1917 so he is over forty (40) when he had his first archiveable film – and his most prolific decade is the 1970s. He has over 200 film credits total. Though he was often cast and categorized playing malicious characters, or bourgeoisie (he would have made a great James Bond villain) – he does get to show some range in Sergio Corbucci’s work as an intellectual – a professor. The strength of Rey’s case here are those Mount Rushmore foursome of Buñuel films at the top – what a perfect collection.


Rey in The French Connection (1971). The film does not work if Rey is not a more than worthy adversary for Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider’s Popeye Doyle and Buddy Russo, respectively. The vast majority of Rey’s best work came in the 1970s – including four (4) out of his best five (5) performances.


directors worked with:  Luis Buñuel (4), Sergio Corbucci (2), Orson Welles (1), William Fredkin (1), John Frankenheimer (1). What variety here – a Spanish director (often working in France), an Italian spaghetti western specialist, a few American mavericks (Wells and Friedkin).


Fernando Rey is a revelation as Don Jaime in the opening chapter of Viridiana (1960). Rey is stunning in each of Buñuel’s best two (2) films.


top five performances:

  1. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
  2. Viridiana
  3. Tristana
  4. That Obscure Object of Desire
  5. The French Connection


archiveable films:

1961- Viridiana
1965- Chimes at Midnight
1966- Navajo Joe
1970- Compañeros
1970- Tristana
1971- The French Connection
1972- The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
1975- French Connection II
1975- Seven Beauties
1977- That Obscure Object of Desire
1984- The Hit