Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel / Mexico, 1950):
(The Forgotten Ones; The Young and the Damned)

Bowery Boys and Pinturas Negras, Luis Buñuel’s lower depths. The eponymous "forgotten ones" are a gang of street urchins in Mexico City, juvenile slum-dwellers devouring each other in the earliest stages of life’s brutal animalistic struggle. Living in the rubble, the children pantomime bullfights, mug a legless passerby for cigarettes, and surround a blind street musician (Miguel Inclán) who wields a mean stick, rusty nail and all. (One remarkable shot: The bloodied, splenetic beggar strains to lift himself off the ground, and the camera pans left to reveal a chortling chicken.) The two doomed friends from De Sica’s Shoeshine here become a sensitive little scrounger (Alfonso Meija) and a loutish reformatory runaway (Roberto Cobo), united by crime and by different kinds of desire toward Meija’s weary and sensual mother (Estela Inda). The city is just a thin layer of pavement over a blistered desert, the carnival merry-go-round is a wheel of pain to the despondent tykes operating it, the unfinished building at a construction site is a tower’s exposed steel skeleton. Meanwhile, adults only have head-shaking platitudes: "I wish we could lock up poverty instead of people." Less reformist pamphlet than ultra-lucid horror show, this unrelenting exposé is a subversion of neorealist tropes, the film world’s rediscovery of Buñuel, an egg thrown in the eye of the voyeuristic camera sniffing for tidy misery. Not even the unconscious can be an escape when the poor impotently prey on the poor, the boy’s dream (grinning corpse, feathers, floating mother and raw beef) is Lorca’s "confin de carne y sueño," surely. A donkey stares through a window following a murder, the sightless neighborhood sage is a reactionary pedophile, the most despicable character gets a tenderly epiphanic death -- the revulsion and pity of Buñuel’s gaze pull together the crowded menagerie of feverish bodies and critters, where children must learn to survive or are literally tossed into the garbage dump. Rocha, Peckinpah, Ripstein and Babenco are who these children grow up into. Cinematography by Gabriel Figueroa. With Mário Ramírez, Alma Delia Fuentes, Francisco Jambrina, Jesús Navarro, Efraín Arauz, and Javier Amézcua. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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