Monday, September 03, 2007

Los Olvidados (1950)

Social realism, Buñuel style: This raw and brutal look at the raw and brutal existence of a gang of Mexican street kids, with particular attention paid to young scrapper Pedro (Alfonso Mejía) and prison escapee Jaibo (Roberto Cobo) begins as a ground-level social-problem film in the neo-realist style, the kind of thing that might have sprung from the camera of De Sica or Rossellini (this could, in essence, be a more sensational cousin to Germany Year Zero). It's not long, though, before Buñuel's guiding hand becomes apparent. It's there in the absurd pointlessness of the scene where the boys beat up a man with no legs (just for the cruelty of it, apparently). It's there in the concentration on superstitions and incomprehensible outside forces in place of religion. It's there in the prankish spirit of the scene where an egg is thrown at the camera. And most of all, it's there in the ferocious imagination of the dream sequence, as brilliant a stretch of film as can be found in any of Buñuel's films. If the anger and bitterness in Buñuel's French films are tempered by the fanciful surrealism and old man's jocularity with which they are adorned, said emotions are only exacerbated in this film by the melodramatic genre containers utilized by Buñuel. Sympathy is at an ebb in Los Olvidados, with few characters escaping the stain of corruption (even Pedro, in his dreams of reconciliation with his fed-up mother, admits that he wants to be good but doesn't know how); it's a grim and pitiless world out there, Buñuel seems to say, and one way or another it will eat you alive.

Grade: A-


Blogger Jose said...

This is one of the films that might be in my humble opinion the best movie ever made, everything about it is flawless, from the direction, score and photography to the acting and dialogue, well that if you understand spanish, its part comedy, part social comentary, part melodrama, part horror dream. The only problem i have with the film is a line that's said by the director of the orphanage, where he says something like, (bear with me i saw this a long time ago), its great that we can help one child, but i wish we could get rid of poverty in this country, which i thought it was too heavy handed.

And the most surprising thing, that this were all amateur actors.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I can understand what you're saying there, but I think the heavy-handedness comes with the genre territory. Still, if that's the worst thing one can say about the film, then it's a damn good film indeed. As if I needed to be reminded of why Bunuel is my favorite filmmaker of all time.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Jose said...

it might come with the territorym but the thing is that i think that the scene is incongruent with the rest of the movie.

6:35 AM  

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