Monday 23 April 2012

Los Olvidados (The Young and the Damned) [1950]

Los Olvidados is considered as one of the greatest Mexican films ever made (personally, I loved The Exterminating Angel more) – a curious anecdote given that it was made by a Spanish man in a self-imposed exile in Mexico. But what made this quite unique was that, unlike most of the masterpieces the great Spanish surrealist Luis Bunuel is known for, this fell in the domain of social realism, to some extent in the footsteps of Italian neo-realism, and thus bereft of his trademark idiosyncracies, iconoclasms and trenchant satires. This gritty B/W drama had as its focus a group of juvenile delinquents living squalid existences somewhere in the poverty-stricken edges of Mexico City. The narrative gradually centres on Pedro (Alfonso Mejia), a young kid yearning for love and acceptance from his mother. Though he seems just another spoilt brat, eventually he turns out to be one of the few people in the film one starts caring for; nearly everyone else – the psychopathic gang leader Jaibo who commits savagery without so much as a blink, the blind musician (Miguel Inclan) who earns our sympathy initially for being tormented by the sadistic gang but eventually reveals his ugly and grotesque nature, Pedro’s voluptuous mother who allows herself to be seduced by the vile Jaibo and is forever distrustful of Pedro, etc., do not possess any redeemable qualities. Bunuel presented an unflinching peek into a cruel world where people, who are essentially good-natured, either die young or become homeless or lead naïve existences – they hardly ever get the rewards out of life that they deserve. The movie is violent, disturbing and deeply tragic, and comprises of excellent turns by Mejia and Inclan among others.

Director: Luis Bunuel
Genre: Drama/Social Drama/Coming-of-Age
Language: Spanish
Country: Mexico


David said...

It's interesting that Bunuel made some realism films in his early career,another one I know is Land Without Bread.I'm glad he did not stick to this style and offered so many great surrealism films to us.

Shubhajit said...

Yes indeed, I think that's the hallmark of a great filmmaker & artist - the ability to seamlessly traverse across themes, styles & genres. Thanks David for stopping by.

Guns N' RoZes said...

You gave me an inspiration to see this movie, thank you.

Shubhajit said...

The pleasure's entirely mine, GnR :)

Sam Juliano said...

One of my absolute favorite Bunuels and a film that has stayed with me all the way back to my college days when I was first exposed to it.

It's a surrealist nightmare, but it's raw and uncompromising the neo-realist school as well. The killing of the young man by Jaibo with the rock is deeply disturbing, and it's why this film has always been difficult to watch over. But brilliance incarnate, and again a great review!

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Sam. Great to know about your unbridled enthusiasm about this Bunuel gem. In fact, even the subplot concerning the blind man was exceedingly disturbing, more so given that we actually sympathasize with him when his character his first introduced.