Sunday, February 18, 2007


LOS OLVIDADOS is a brutal, short, black and white film shot by Luis Buñuel in the slums of Mexico City in 1950. The movie has an energy and authenticity derived from its quick gonzo shoot and the use of real kids and real stories.

A mean kid called Jaibo is released from prison and proceeds to gather a gang of young waifs around him. He beats up the helpless - the crippled and blind - in his desperate but cruel bid to survive. Less excusable is his lecherous advances to a young girl and his violent revenge on the kid who squealed. Jaibo hangs out to dry a young kid trying to make good called Pedro. It is with a sadistic and Dickensian sense of fatalism that when Pedro is given a chance by a kindly reform officer, Jaibo is waiting for him, and drags him back down to the gutter.

Superficially, LOS OLVIDADOS is a very different film from later Luis Buñuel flicks like
BELLE DE JOUR. However, within the overall tone of gritty realism we have a sinister dream sequence that is Buñuel at his most idiosyncratic and psychologically penetrating. Still, there is none of the macabre black humour of a film like BELLE DE JOUR here. The tone is nihilistic and fatalistic. This is a world where a mother will feed herself before her son. It is a world where the director will make us sympathise with a blind man, viciously attacked, but then show us the same blind man as a sexual predator. I haven't seen a movie end on such a low note since THE 400 BLOWS.

LOS OLVIDADOS was originally released in 1950, when it won the award for Best Director at Cannes. It has been restored and re-released by the British Film Institute in the UK.

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