I was not aware that Luis Bunuel had done films in English. Apparently, he only did two, but the editors saw fit to add one of them to the list, until they ended up removing it to add a different Bunuel film. Nevertheless, I’ve arrived at my final Bunuel film (thank God), or at least the last one on the list, and it was largely the fact that it was in English, coupled with the lack of surreal Bunuel touches, that I was able to like this one a little more than most of the Bunuel I’ve seen, and a lot more than the early work of his.
La Joven, or The Young One, is the story of a colored man, a clarinet player, who ends up on the run in the South after a white woman accuses him of rape. He ends up fleeing to a nearby island, on which lives a disgruntled game warden and the teenage granddaughter of the warden’s former partner, who is found dead at the beginning of the film. The film then largely follows the interactions between these three people (and an additional two brought in later in the plot); the racially charged initial meetings between the warden and the clarinet player, the sexually charged interactions between the warden and the young girl, and the friendship that develops between the girl and the black man. Like I said in the opener, this was in English, and it wasn’t just in the language; this felt like a Hollywood production, albeit one that somehow would’ve gotten away with topics like underage sex and racially-heated dialogue. The plot was pretty straightforward, although focused more on characterization than the actual plot, but it worked fairly well. The actors’ delivery of their lines was rather stilted across the board, but the cinematography was quite nice; especially the frequent use of dolly to add movement to quite a number of shots, which was a surprising development.
Really, I’m just amazed that I’m talking about a Bunuel film like this, like it’s a regular Hollywood film of the 40s or 50s. Granted, it came out in 1960, but I’m perfectly willing to forgive Bunuel some lapses in creative and technological development if it meant we get more normal films out of him like this one. As rudimentary as this was, this pretty much shot up to right below Los Olvidados as one of my favorite Bunuel films, and the fact that I can even use the phrase “my favorite Bunuel films” is frankly enough of a miracle in itself. I can see why they culled this particular Bunuel to add a different one, but if it had been up to me, this wouldn’t have gotten my vote. It’s actually watchable, and entertaining, which is two things I can’t say about a large chunk of the man’s work, so if that comes off as a recommendation, then that’s what it does.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10