Saturday, July 14, 2012

Luis Buñuel: Los Olvidados, Take Two

Oh, man, still musing over Luis Buñuel's Los Olvidados (1950). How does it work? I believe you could watch this half a dozen times and see something new and different every time.

Kindness and compassion. In a grim, day-to-day setting without much chance for a healthy future, any small gesture of decency is magnified. One example, almost pitiful but sweet, is an exchange between a boy and young woman of a necklace with a tooth for good luck and protection.

Character and plot. The entire rickety milieu might be enough to carry a story by itself, but Buñuel is able to provide a beginning, middle and end in this way: the release from incarceration of El Jaibo (played by Roberto Cobo) -- "The Crab." This nasty character makes things happen -- most of them bad. With some charisma and brute will, he gathers a bunch of neighborhood males into a de facto gang of hooligans. His brilliant ideas include attacking a blind man and a man with no legs (I have no doubt that these scenes later influenced certain set-ups in Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, 1971, and particular scenes constructed by Sergio Leone, among others). El Jaibo is not totally demonic, but he's pretty close to it. For instance, he only means to cripple one character but ends up killing him semi-accidentally. Nice guy -- compare also with certain memorable scenes in the HBO series, The Sopranos.

El Jaibo has a nemesis in "The Blind Man" (Don Carmelo, played by Miguel Inclán, whose persona is much like Lee Marvin's). The Blind Man is a survivor of the Mexican Revolution, a tough bird, indeed, and mean, too. He defends himself with everything he's got, including a stick with a nail on it. What is even more interesting, though, is that Buñuel doesn't make him into some kind of "hero:" he's in it for himself, avaricious and often creepy.

And guess what?  Still absorbing Los Olvidados. Thanks a lot, Buñuel!

Today's Rune: Defense.               


Charles Gramlich said...

When we live large with gifts, it's easy to forget how in simpler days a tiny thing might make all the difference to us as a gift.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've really enjoyed the ones I've seen but this isn't one of them.
Maybe my library has it.