Los Olvidados could be my all-time favourite film and
as i'm not a film scholar I feel inadequate to write a proper review
of this cinematic masterpiece and also i'm struggling with my english,
but I will try anyway and keep it short.
It's a SHAME that Los Olvidados, as per when i'm writing this in December
2022, hasn't been released on a restored
Blu-ray or 4K disc and with english subtitles. A SCANDAL actually when
the diretor's late films made in Europe, France
et. al. countries, his late 1960's and 1970's films have been released
in a plethora of releases.
Why ? Maybe because the stupid gringos were looking down on Mexico ?
Old-time racism ? Buñuel made some of his
greatest films in Mexico and the maybe greatest of them all, yes, the
best film ever made, has still not been restored and
there are only a few low quality DVD releases out there, and very few
with english subtitles. (This written in dec 2022).
If there is a Blu-ray or 4K version with english subtitles out there
then i'm wrong and I must get a copy of it.
Above: Roberto Cobo as Jaibo and Alfonso Mejia as Pedro
The Power of this film is enormous and watching it back
in 1950 must've been like getting a hard punch in the stomach.
OK, the Italian Neo-realist film era wasn't that remote, but still,
something like Los Olvidados must've been a shock to the
audiences back then. In his autobiography Buñuel says he admired
Vittorio de Sica's "Shoeshine" a neo-realism film.
The film and Luis Buñuel was met with a storm of rage and fury
.... at first that is. Why didn't he make a "real" Mexican
film, such ugliness couldn't be found in Mexico, a lousy Spaniard had
no right to dishonor the Nation like this, etc.
But the (few) Méxican intellectuals (says Buñuel in his
autobiography liked it, and not least the future Nobel Prize winner
in Literature Octavio Paz wrote a glowing review of the film.
Above: The Street Kids brutal harassment of the legless
beggar (Censored in Sweden)
For the French film audiences, critics and artists the
reappearance of the long lost Spanish surrealist director after some
15 years in Hollywood and Mexico (he had made 2 films before in Mexico
but these were routine efforts and not known
outside of Mexico) was a sensation and the film won
Best Director at Cannes Film Festival 1951. Suddenly the film
dishonoring Mexico anymore but was reappraised and hailed also in Mexico,
where the film was awarded Three Ariel
Awards (Mexican "Oscar") for Best Film and Best Director
and for best actress.
(Yes, "Magically" film critics do a 180 degrees
turnaround when a director wins an important prize. As in Sweden with
South Korean director Park Chan-wook when his powerful "Sympathy
for Mr. Vengeance" was shown here. The puke
film critics slaughtered it - "Another tired Asian Bloodbath"
etc. like that, and this because they had no idea about who
the director was or about South Korean film in general then. Next, Park
won in Cannes with "Oldboy" and suddenly this
Asian violent B-director "Magically" turned into an important
film director also here in Sweden. Pathetic).
I remember watching the film as a kid when it was shown
on Swedish TV in the 1970's and it made a huge impression on me.
Raw and authentic and the dream sequence scared me, but I was too young
to understand and handle the darkness of the film.
But in the 1980's the film "The Young and the Damned" was
one of the first VHS films i bought from the US. Then i watched
it on a big screen when shown by the Swedish Film Institute as a part
of their Luis Buñuel series, but both these the 35 mm
film and the VHS seemed to be missing or have shortened scenes (as the
assault on the beggar).
And, Yes, the Swedish Film Censor Board shortened many scenes due to
brutality i.a. the beggar scene (see above pic).
So, even a master as Luis Buñuel was trashed by these disgusting
censor vultures (i doubt that these pricks would've
shortened any of the scenes in Buñuel's later films when he was
a well known director).
Above: The famous surrealistic dream sequence with Estela Inda as the
mother (she was also awarded an Ariel Award 1951)
The Film: The Slums of Mexico City. Poor vs. Poor. The Players -
(Roberto Canedo (1930-2002) has escaped
from Reform School, a parentless thug leader of the boys from the slum
and who commits small crimes. He seems to enjoy harassing people and
just being evil.
Pedro (Alfonso Mejia)
has three younger siblings and has no father either. His mother Marta
(Estela Inda) has discarded him
due to him being in a street gang and he desperately seeks her love.
Ojitos - Small Eyes (Jesus Navarro) a small
boy, has been dumped in the Market, abandoned by his father
The Blind Man, Carmelo
(Miguel Inclan) is an old man and a street musician
Meche (Alma Delia Fuentes) is a young girl
who both young as old men lusts after
Pedro has witnessed Jaibo kill another boy, Julian,
in revenge for this guy calling the police on him, and for Jaibo being
to Reform School. Jaibo is Bad, and he takes great delight leading his
gang in attacking Don Carmelo, The Blind man and
destroying his instruments. Later his gang also attacks the helpless
legless beggar, see pic above, Censored in Sweden.
At the end of Carmelo's assault he crawls on the ground and faces a
.... Black Hen. !? (Just as Katy Jurado does at the end
of the 1952 "El Bruto" - Read
more about this film on my Méxican Film Page). What about Buñuel
and black hens ?
When Pedro gets a job at a Blacksmith he thinks he will earn some money
for his mother and maybe get some of her love.
But, his tormentor Jaibo turns up and steals a knife which Pedro gets
the blame for, and Pedro is sent to Reform School.
Then, for the first time in Pedro's miserable life things starts looking
bright for him due to the trust of the progressive
Director of the school. Pedro is given a 50 pesos bill to run an errand
for the Director, and then Jaibo turns up again like
a demon from hell and steals the money. Jaibo is worried that Pedro
will tell about the killing of Julian, and he kills Pedro.
Also Jaibo is soon killed by the police - which leads to the
mightily impressive and powerfully poetic ending - WOW!
The ending scene. One of the most depressing but also most emphatic
and gripping scenes i've ever seen. Masterpiece.
The Blind man is something of a Greek choir in this
film. He complains about bad kids and the way society goes down the
drain and he has a very dark view of life. At the end he rages that
they should all been killed before birth.
He's both good and bad. He takes care of poor little Ojitos when he's
been dumped by his father, but he also lusts after
the much too young Meche (se cover pic) and she's just a 12 or 13 years
old girl. Miguel Inclan is great in the role.
Roberto Cobo played the main role in The Buñuel
of México Arturo Ripstein's 1978 "El Lugar" sin Limites
where he played
the transvestite Manuela. Roberto Cobo was a great actor who played
in lots and lots of Méxican films.
The DVD film is presented in 4:3 fullscreen
original ratio with Spanish audio mono with English subtitles, region
Extras: The infamous Alternative Happy Ending that the film company
forced Buñuel to do (and that he luckily never had
to use), Las Hurdes / Tierra Sin Pan /
Land without Bread - the seldom seen 1932 documentary short film (27
Essay text in french only by the future Méxican Noble Prize laureate
author and poet Octavio Paz, Filmography, Leaflet