After a strange interlude of nearly two decades of critical obscurity, one of the great masters of the cinema returned to the public eye with this gripping combination of gritty realism and disorienting surrealism. Set in the slums of Mexico City, this is Luis Bunuel's brutally clear-eyed
account of "The Forgotten Ones", the reckless youth whose dismal marginal existence has become a deadly web from which they cannot extract themselves. Bunuel adopts many of the trappings of the popular form of the liberal social problem drama to tell his story but his goals are different. Rather
than blaming all of the misery of these young people on their grim social conditions, he utilizes surrealism to expose the psychological underpinnings of their condition as he zeroes in on their dreams and sexuality. The result is a film that is realistic yet dreamy, heartrendingly sad yet
subversively funny. There are no easy heroes or villains in this tough film. Bunuel also deftly avoids the sentimentalism that often afflicts this form.
At the film's core is the relationship between Pedro (Alfonso Mejia) and Jaibo (Roberto Cobo), two youths who live in Mexico's most disease-ridden urban slum. Jaibo, the older of the two, is already set in his ways, his selfish, vicious nature leading him to take advantage of those less fortunate
than himself. As the film opens, he has just been released from jail and immediately returns to take control of the gang of boys who hang out in the streets and commit senseless acts of violence--not for money but for the pleasure of seeing the less fortunate suffer. The boy most eager to follow
and please Jaibo is the childlike Pedro, whose innocent eyes reveal a spark of goodness lacking in the others.
The roots of this film extend back to LAS HURDES, Bunuel's devastating (yet also peversely amusing) 1932 documentary about the wretched living conditions in Spain's poorest region. There is also a vigorous nod to the Italian neo-realists; LOS OLVIDADOS is, as celebrated French critic Andre Bazin
called it, "a film that lashes the mind like a red-hot iron and leaves one's conscience no opportunity for rest." Rarely have such squalor and savagery been displayed so unsentimentally, for Bunuel, who has a deep love for his characters, refuses to judge or pity them. Bunuel was named Best
Director at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival, an award richly deserved.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: After a strange interlude of nearly two decades of critical obscurity, one of the great masters of the cinema returned to the public eye with this gripping combination of gritty realism and disorienting surrealism. Set in the slums of Mexico City, this is… (more)