Combustible Celluloid
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With: Estela Inda, Alfonso Mejia, Roberto Cobo, Jesus Navarro, Miguel Inclan, Alma Fuentes
Written by: Luis Bunuel, Luis Alcoriza
Directed by: Luis Bunuel
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 85
Date: 11/09/1950

Los Olvidados (1950)

4 Stars (out of 4)

The Forgotten Ones

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For those of us who became instant Luis Bunuel fans the moment we saw the sliced eyeball in Un Chien Andalou (1928), this week marks a big event: the restoration and re-release of Bunuel's 1950 masterpiece, Los Olvidados. It begins today at San Francisco's Balboa Theater and plays for a week.

A major influence on Truffaut's The 400 Blows and countless other films, Los Olvidados drives us down to dirt-level and introduces us to a band of poverty-stricken children in Mexico. Led by the escaped teen prisoner Jaibo, these urchins do not think twice about robbing a blind man or stealing a legless cripple's cart.

Tough, cynical and unsentimental, Bunuel sprinkles the film with his trademark surrealist fetishes, such as disturbing dream sequences, a girl bathing her legs in milk and a rooster staring down the blind man, in addition to hints of rape and pedophilia. This was tough stuff in 1950, and it caused all kinds of uproar, especially in its native Mexico. Yet it's a heartbreaking, compulsively watchable work, and more truthful even than the Italian Neorealist work of the same period.

The film's beautiful cinematography, dusty with just a hint of morning light, was by the genius Gabriel Figueroa, who would go on to shoot other Bunuel classics (Simon of the Desert, The Exterminating Angel, etc.) and earlier had shot John Ford's beautiful but misunderstdood The Fugitive (1947).

The Balboa will show the new print of Los Olvidados, courtesy of the good folks at Koch Lorber, accompanied by a bonus: the happy ending distributors originally insisted upon.

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