Oh boy; how much am I not a fan of Luis Bunuel? Sooooooo much! Nevertheless, the guy’s got practically a dozen films on the list, so I’m bound to run into a few more by him. It’s been over a year since my last Bunuel, though, so maybe I’ve got a little more experience toward films such as his, and I might be a little more warmed up for one. Right in the middle of his filmography, between his early surrealist works and his later more plot-driven films comes Los Olvidados, or The Young and the Damned. As much as I tend to have bad fortune going into films blind, I tried to limit my foreknowledge going into this one, since I didn’t think I would take to it whatsoever. Well, imagine my surprise when about twenty minutes into the film, I found myself among actual elements that make up an actual film, with a narrative and everything!
That’s right, fans of surrealism; Bunuel has finally topped himself. This film has characters! That have depth, and personality! And a plot! AN ACTUAL PLOT! Perhaps all my previous experience with Bunuel has just been a lead-up to this film, where he finally realizes that films with a plotline and realistic characters with their own story arcs are actually somewhat watchable, rather than just being artistic for art’s sake. The plot itself deals with a group of young kids living in poverty on the streets of Mexico City, and quickly, we single in on a few in particular: Pedro, a young pre-teen who’s gang-related mischief has him on the out-and-outs with his mother; Small Eyes, who gains a somewhat uncompromising relationship with a blind man, as well as a much more beneficial one with a young girl named Meche; and Jaibo, the older one whom all the kids look up to. Now, this still has elements of surrealism, as if Bunuel just couldn’t help himself, like the random addition of a chicken watching over the blind man after he’s been beaten by the hoodlums of the story, and a slow-motion sequence in the middle of the film that pretty much defies explanation. Really, there seems to be a certain obsession with birds that Bunuel has in this one; they appear everywhere, and rather indiscriminately, and it got kind of humorous by the end. Just special note of that.
This was a weird one, alright, but it was one I was at least able to follow with, so that was more than I could say for pretty much every other Bunuel I’ve seen. This is another one that the word masterpiece is thrown around quite often, and while I’m not inclined to fully agree with that assessment, I guess I’m all right with others using it if they wish. I was just happy that this was much more like a normal film, and it was one that, dare I say it, I actually somewhat liked. It was short, so it didn’t overstay its welcome, the plot was exactly as it should be, and the film as a whole is an enlightening fictional account of the lives of the poverty-stricken in 1950s Mexico. Damn, I might even give this a recommendation, as I really can’t see too many reasons to not watch it, should you get the chance. Well, here’s hoping the remaining Bunuels on the list are more like this one; this was very refreshing, while still keeping many of the touches of his style of filmmaking, and I could appreciate it a hell of a lot more for that.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10