DIALOG(R)File 630:Los Angeles Times
(c) 1995 Los Angeles Times. All rts. reserv.
Bunuel's 'Los Olvidados' a Brutal Masterpiece
Los Angeles Times (LT) - FRIDAY October 18, 1991
By: MARK CHALON SMITH; SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
Edition: Orange County Edition Section: Calendar Page: 25 Pt. F Col.
Story Type: Motion Picture Review
Word Count: 475
Since 1950, when "Los Olvidados" was released to angry cries from
Mexican officials who thought it would ruin the country's morale, Luis
Bunuel's early masterpiece has been going for the gut.
This look at the children living in Mexico City's slums is operatic in
its tragedy yet steadfast in its realism. "Los Olvidados" is a retort to
all those hopeful movies ("Boys Town," "Angels With Dirty Faces," to name a
couple) from the '30s that presented juvenile delinquency as a problem
easily overcome by Father Flanagan-love and more than a little Hollywood
The impact of its documentary-like images and flinty truths--forget any
happy endings; the closest thing to heroes are rubbed out just like
everyone else--was too much for many people. Politicians denounced "Los
Olvidados" (which screens at UC Irvine tonight) as the worst kind of
publicity for Mexico and other Third World countries, and even some film
critics were depressed by its dispassionate frankness.
But Bunuel knew that poverty can't be prettied up, that it needs to be
shown as a dehumanizing cycle. Inspired by Vittorio De Sica's "Shoeshine,"
which explored similar themes, Bunuel said he set out to shake us up,
describing the movie as "my attack on the sadness that ruins children
before they have a chance."
The title translates to "The Forgotten Ones" or "The Young and the
Damned," and the most damned are Jaibo (Roberto Cobo) and Pedro (Alfonso
Mejia). Both live amid meanness, where hunger is routine (a celebrated
dream sequence uses a hunk of beef as a virtual totem of desire for Pedro)
and violence is standard treatment.
Despite the odds, you sense there's hope for Pedro, a boy with some
conscience and the only glimmer of optimism Bunuel allows. But there's none
of that hope for Jaibo, the dangerous leader of the neighborhood gang Pedro
belongs to. Jaibo frightens us. Bunuel doesn't cloak his sociopathic
tendencies--with Gabriel Figueroa's sharp-edged cinematography magnifying
the events, we see Jaibo commit two murders and abuse everybody he touches.
Jaibo eventually swallows up Pedro and any aspirations he may have.
When Pedro finally gets a job as an assistant in a cutlery shop, Jaibo
sabotages him by stealing a knife, and Pedro is blamed for the theft.
Later, Jaibo brutally decides Pedro's fate, and Bunuel has closed his case
against Mexico's barrios.
To keep the movie lean and powerful, Bunuel, who was raised in the
surrealist tradition and worked with Salvador Dali at the beginning of his
career, avoided many of the wildly visual flourishes that marked much of
his filmmaking. Except for the dream sequence, Bunuel left everything
relatively straight, emphasizing the earthy drama at the core of "Los
Luis Bunuel's "Los Olvidados" will screen tonight at 7 and 9 in the
Crystal Cove Auditorium at UC Irvine's Student Center. Tickets: $2 and $4.
Information: (714) 856-6379.