Los olvidados (Luis Buñuel, 1950)

So, I guess Buñuel tries his hand at Neorealism…that is, until a a really trippy dream involving chickens and a bully rising up from beneath the bed reminds us that this is, indeed, a Buñuel film. Other than that and other faintly off-kilter Buñuel touches like the blind man rubbing a pidgeon across a woman’s bare back, this was probably the most grounded-in-reality film of Buñuel’s that I’ve seen, which is both something of a breath of fresh air, as well as a disappointment in that with this guy at the helm, this could’ve been something a lot more, shall we say, interesting. Oh well, can’t have it both ways, obviously. As it stands, this was pretty good, I guess. I’ve certainly seen significantly better kids-in-the-shithouse-and-having-to-fend-for-themselves-and-develop-a-rugged-street-mentality movies – The 400 Blows, Salaam Bombay, and City of God to name a few – and I was surprised how preachy this got in certain spots, especially with those idealistic speeches by the rather saintly school principal (Buñuel’s certainly been preachy in other films about the hypocrisy of a class system, but usually that message has been inherent in the satirical material of films like The Exterminating Angel or Belle de jour, not spoken outright here, all Hawks’ “Scarface”-esque). Also, the dichotomy and feud between the troubled young protagonist Pedro and the vicious Jaibo was a little too much – in other words, the grungy, rugged nature of these kids was played up a little too obviously for my taste. But, Buñuel was never one for complete and utter realism or subtlety, so overall this film’s mix of (neo)realism and little oddities here and there, albeit in a rather derivative and predictable setting and story (although many of the plot elements, like Pedro being sent away to a juvie-like school, was used by films like The 400 Blows after Los olvidados, so maybe I should be criticizing those later films for being unoriginal, but eh, I think they did ’em better, so…), is pretty interesting. Good, could’ve been better.

7.5/10

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