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With: Zachary Scott, Bernie Hamilton, Key Meersman, Crahan Denton, Claudio Brook
Written by: H.B. Addis (a.k.a. Hugo Butler), Luis Buñuel, based on a story by Peter Matthiessen
Directed by: Luis Buñuel
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Spanish, English with English subtitles
Running Time: 190
Date: 03/19/2013

Luis Bunuel: 2 Disc Collector's Edition (2007)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Luis, Luis

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lionsgate Home Video follows up their Hitchcock and Renoir box sets with this welcome Luis Bunuel set, containing -- like the previous two -- a selection of supposed minor films that otherwise would probably never see a DVD. This set includes two films, Gran Casino (1947) and The Young One (1960). Gran Casino is a shockingly routine film, a Mexican musical that Bunuel reportedly directed without love or personality just to collect a paycheck and re-enter the movie business. The Young One, on the other hand, is far more interesting, if heavier than usual for the playful director.

Only one of two English-language films in his canon (the other being Robinson Crusoe), The Young One fits vaguely into a mold with American social movies of the time, like Stanley Kramer's The Defiant Ones (1958), though Bunuel's vision is starker and absolutely everyone is implicated. On a run-down island hunting ground, the game warden, Miller (Zachary Scott) lives with an old man and the old man's granddaughter Evalyn (Key Meersman). The old man passes away at the film's beginning, and Miller suddenly realizes that, underneath her grime and ratty clothes, that Evalyn has blossomed into a beautiful young girl. He prepares to send her to the mainland but alternately succumbs to his lust and plans to keep her around. Enter Traver (Bernie Hamilton) a black jazz musician who has been accused of rape and is on the run. He finds refuge on the island, though while Evalyn is kind to him, Miller treats him with contempt. The film finds many excuses to keep Traver on the island to elevate the tension as each man tries to get the upper hand. In an American film, Traver would be a beacon of goodness, but here he's only slightly more honorable than Miller. The movie implies that he's innocent of the rape charge, but doesn't prove it. It's a psychologically dense movie, aided by Gabriel Figueroa's lush black-and-white cinematography, but it lacks Bunuel's trademark humorous contempt (which he would refine on his next film Viridiana). It gets under the skin of these characters, but offers little relief.

DVD Details: Lionsgate's DVD is beautifully restored and The Young One comes with optional English subtitles. Historian Philip Kemp provides a commentary track for Gran Casino and Spanish and Latin film historians Peter Evans and Isabel Santaolalla provide one for The Young One. Each film runs about 95 minutes.

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