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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unforgettable, powerhouse, stark portrait of the low life, the
"forgotten ones" -- i.e. the poor, abandoned, handicapped kids (and
adults) fighting for survival in the streets, slums and reform schools
in and around Mexico City. A realistic film with amazing surrealistic
sequences, "Los Olvidados" remains to this day one of the most
visceral, crude, revolutionary and important films ever made.
A great companion to the work of Neo-realists in Italy (Buñuel himself said he was inspired by De Sica's "Sciuscià"), this is the landmark film of concerned cinema in Latin America, and the first of a great lineage of films about troubled childhood and youth: Nelson Pereira dos Santos's masterpiece "Rio 40 Graus" (Brazil, 1955); Hector Babenco's "Pixote" (Brazil, 1980); Sebastián Cordero's must-see, brilliant and sadly little-known "Ratas Ratones Rateros" (Equador, 1999); and Fernando Meirelles's "City of of God" (Brazil, 2002), among others. Each of these movies are great on their own, but they lack that extra touch of wild imagination that only Buñuel could deliver.
Watching "Los Olvidados" more than half a century after it was made, it's very clear to see why Buñuel remains a one-of- a-kind filmmaker in movie history, as he combines social commentary, political concern, artistic invention, wild creativity, ferocious sarcasm, daring eroticism, acid humor and unique visual style, all present here. Buñuel was 50 years old when he directed this film, as his understanding of human nature shows, but it has the vigor, boldness and freshness of a young man's work.
It must be mentioned how anti-cliché Buñuel's films were, and how faithful to his surrealistic beginnings he remained, and maybe that's why his films have survived so well through the years -- they're still so surprising! His characters are never taken for granted, they're never black or white, but always fascinating and disturbing. Think of the "twisted" characters in "Los Olvidados": the blind man, the mother, Ojitos, the girl, the grandfather, and all the kids...
Some unforgettable sequences: the young girl Melche pouring milk over her bare legs to a very sensuous effect; Pedro throwing an egg at the camera (at us, sadistic voyeurs of his misfortunes, wow!); El Jaibo aroused by Pedro's mother washing her feet; Ojitos thinking whether he should kill the old blind man; Pedro having a nervous breakdown when his mother spanks some roosters; the chilling, crude, totally silent sequence of Pedro being harassed by an older man; and, of course, the dream sequence about the piece of meat (Pauline Kael called it "perhaps the greatest fantasy sequence in movie history") and the trunk-man sequence, now so justly famous. Buñuel's recurrent fetishes are here too: the mud-throwing, the animals (pigs, mules, roosters, hens, dogs,etc), the disabled, women's feet...
The two final sequences - the fates of main characters El Jaibo and Pedro - are each more powerful than the other. Any movie director would be very happy to have just one of these great finales but Buñuel got them both !!!
It must be mentioned that the DVD (at least the one distributed in Brazil) brings the alternative "happy ending" which would have partially destroyed the impact of the film. In sticking to the crude and pessimistic ending, Buñuel retained his artistic integrity, which helps explain, in part, why Buñuel had been out of mainstream cinema for 20 years. He wouldn't compromise -- can you think of just one handful of filmmakers today of whom you could say that? And, just for the record, Buñuel's salary as a writer-director for this one was a "staggering" U$ 2,000 and no percentage. Enough said.
INTERESTING FACTS (as told in Buñuel's autobiography "Mon Dernier Soupir" -- a mandatory book for all interested in artistic creativity): "Los Olvidados" only got made because Buñuel had had a financial success the previous year with his second Mexican film, "El Gran Calavera". As a preparation for "Olvidados" and wearing his worst clothes, Buñuel circulated for five months in slums and poor areas around Mexico City to get the right "feel" and language for the characters. When the film was released in Mexico, it was attacked by everyone as an insult to the country and its people -- and remained just 4 days in theaters. Buñuel was threatened and attacked ("an exiled Spaniard showing those filthy lies about Mexico!"). Only after the triumph in Cannes the film became internationally recognized as a masterpiece and went back to theaters in Mexico, winning the respect of critics and intellectuals, an array of awards and allowing Buñuel to continue his career there.
Don't miss this one!! It will impact you on multiple levels and strike you as astonishingly daring and contemporary. My vote: 10 out of 10, a definitive, revolutionary masterpiece that may also be a life-changing experience.
Please, right now, take away the featured user comment that calls Los Olvidados a "nice, short drama." This is perhaps the worst assessment of any movie I have ever heard, and whoever said it cannot recognize how masterful the film is because his or her senses have been dulled by too many action movies. I say that because this film, from surrealist master Luis Buñuel, is as admirable as nearly any portrait of poverty and crime, with the probable exception of DeSica's The Bicycle Thief. In fact, though, Los Olvidados is much much more brutal and harrowing than The Bicycle Thief (not to say that this assures it to be a superior film). Buñuel mostly takes a break from his surrealist tendencies in this film, with the exception of a few remarkably effective dream sequences, and creates a ultra-realist portrait of Mexican slums that is uncompromisingly frank. All the characters, including a young boy caught up in a dangerous gang, his harsh mother, the gang leader and vicious bully, and a bitter old blind man, among others, and what transpires among them are expertly captured by Buñuel's camera. To characterize this movie, I would call it a much more bleak and brutal Neo-realist film, with a touch of surrealism. I would also characterize it as a masterpiece. Why this film does not show up on more top film lists I am unsure, but all I can say is that it should not be missed by any serious film connoisseur.
Los Olvidados, translated as The Young and the Damned, is a treatise on
the street-life of kids in Mexico City. There are at least three
characters who are of focus here, and three others on the sidelines
with equal importance: El Jaibo, a rough young man who's grown up on
the street his whole life, and who's picked up more than his share of
wicked, ego-driven habits; "Big Eyes" as he's called by a Blind Man
(he's credited as Lost Boy on this site) is a kid whose lost his
father, and is taken in by the old-fashioned, hardened old man, who
lives next to the girl Meche; and Pedro, the hero, is deep down a good
soul, but with a side that just wants to roam the streets, at the
carelessness of his estranged mother, who like her son is poverty
stricken. Pedro, one day, witnesses Jaibo commit a killing of a
squealer, and this puts him in a bad position, as his relationship with
his mother unfolds, and so on.
All through Los Olvidados, based on real events and real people from the streets, I kept on feeling for these people in the same way I did for the characters I saw in the neo-realism movies like La Terra Trema and Shoeshine. Here are people who are so starkly depicted who can practically smell the streets coming off of them. That they are non-professionals in real settings, like in those movies, and the stories are such simple yet heart-felt, goes to show the mastery of Luis Bunuel. While he became infamous for such films in the thirties like Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or, and later for such originals like Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and the obscure Phantom of Liberty (the climax in that is something that could've inspired most gross-out comedies of late), this film displays his worth as a writer/director outside of the reputation he garnered in that he tells us the story, with the little details and complex emotions that the Italian directors were able to bring forth, while every once in a while reminding us that it is his brand of movie-making at work.
And, un-like his other works, he does this ever-so fleetingly that I only caught his style creeping in twice: the first was a tip of the hat to his surrealistic roots, when Pedro has a dream that seems to correspond perfectly to his truths and the truths of the neighborhood as he asks her why (in an earlier scene) she didn't give him any meat. She brings over a large piece of meat, and as she brings it to him a hand creeps up (Jaibo) that grabs at him to take it away. There is just enough imagery and just enough message that the dream works as one of Bunuel's best sequences. The second time was a very brief moment when Pedro is working with some chickens and eggs, and at one point Pedro looks at the camera and throws an egg at the lens. Indeed, this could be seen as out of place for such a straight-forward drama on torrents of youth that resonate generation after generation (this is inspired by neo-realism to an extent, yet probably inspired the likes of Clockwork Orange and even the recent City of God), however we get an inkling of what Bunuel is trying to tell us- these are real people in real settings and in a somewhat melodramatic story set in times of economic drought and such, and feel for them as I do - but don't forget, it's only a movie.
In my opinion, Los Olvidados should be discovered by movie buffs, since it is possibly Bunuel's most accessible work, but perhaps Discreet Charm would still be the first to see if wanting to get the Bunuel vein.
I just saw this at the local art house theatre and I realized that I've
never seen a decent print of this masterpiece which ranks
alongside Citizen Kane and the Bicycle Thieves as the greatest
film ever made. What a shame? I'm waiting for Criterion or
somebody to restore it and give it the respect it so rightfully
However, watching butchered, scratched prints with a muddy soundtrack has given the film a charm and personality. It's as dirty and grungy as the story it is telling.
This film is perfect. It's the closest thing to artistic TRUTH that I've seen. And yes the characters are rotten but they break your heart. Just when you think Jaibo is one of the screens greatest villains, he tells a story about being abandened as a child, and seeing the beautiful face of a woman who looked like a saint who may or may not have been his mother. Powerful stuff. Never have I seen a more relentless and brutal film. It never shys away from the truth and try to sugar coat it. All the kids are complex. They're neither innocents or devils. The story of troubled youth and urban violence have been told countless of times, but this is the real deal and the measuring stick for all.
Where do I start? Perhaps, by writing WOW a few hundred times in a
The very opening shots and voice-over warn us that this was not an optimistic movie. It instantly made me believe this would be Las Hurdes in Mexico, something like a fictionalised version of Buñuel's 1933 faux-documentary about the extreme poverty of the peasants in the remote Spanish Las Hurdes region. In the first half hour, Los Olvidados's mood and style remained faithful to the influence of several Italian neo-realist movies I'd seen, namely De Sica and perhaps some early Pasolini (namely, Accattone). In a looser sense, maybe also Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay! seemed to have gotten some inspiration from Buñuel's movie. And finally, I could also and more obviously see that Fernando Meirelles's Cidade de Deus (City of God) owed more than a little to this 1950 masterpiece. I love it when I finally get to see the movie that has influenced so many other (usually minor, but more famous) films that have followed it even several decades after its release! Los Olvidados would still have been an excellent film, even if it had remained Italian neo-realistic-like till the end. But to my delight and wonder, it became something much more unique and memorable as soon as its own distinct, Buñuelian flavour kicked in halfway through, IMO elevating this picture to something more than "just" powerfully gritty and cinematically honest (as can be said and admired in the works of De Sica, Rossellini et al). To be honest, though I AM Italian and the spirit of neo-realism is somehow deeply embedded in my cultural subconscious, my problem with the Italian neo-realists has always been their lack of vision, or refusal to also venture into the otherworldly, the spiritual, the dream-like, the allegorical. Though I bow before the greatness of the Italian neo-realist masters, I will never feel completely conquered by their otherwise mesmerising pictures. Before watching Los Olvidados, I was never quite sure of the reason for this. With this movie, Buñuel has finally put his finger on exactly what I've always found was missing in pictures like Sciuscià, Accattone and Roma Città Aperta for them to truly get not just under my skin, but into my wildest dreams and imagination as well - an ability to interweave the fantastical in something that couldn't be more grounded in reality. Yet, why can't the lives of the underprivileged underbelly of the world, in this case a Mexican shantytown of the late 40s, also evoke magic? Is the fantastical only a privilege of the bougeoisie? I think not! Thank you, Buñuel, for inspiring me into thinking about this...
To better understand this movie is necessary to make some history. By 1950, Mexico was involved in the filming golden era. Histories about brave Mexican machos riding horses, singing songs to beautiful girls and drinking a lot of tequila were produced with success. By that time, actors like Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete and Pedro Armedariz were real idols and people were in line to see the most recent productions. Then Luis Buñuel wrote the story about the poverty and conditions of street children in Mexico City. No matter that the production, photography, direction and even the performances of relatively unknown actors were most than good, no matter that for the first time in Mexico someone produced a film totally different, with the influence of the Italian Neo-realism, No matter that someone had the guts to film the reality of the majorities living in big cities, Buñuel was severally criticized and even censored. The film produced a lot of reactions in the prosper Mexico. How is possible that someone could say that this is the reality in this country? How is possible that a person from another country filmed a Mexican history about something that really he didn't know? At that time, most of the persons were against the movie, but then something happen. In Cannes Festival (1951) Los Olvidados received the award for best direction and all reviews and comments about the film and Buñuel were positive. When the international festival ended, Mexican authorities decided to release the movie again to the cinemas and the success was immediate. By the end of the year (1951) Los olvidados won 11 Ariel awards (Oscar equivalent for Mexican productions), including the golden Ariel for best picture and three different awards for Buñuel (directing, screenplay and adaptation). Why is important to mention this? Fortunately, for the good of filming industry worldwide, Buñuel received the support and budget to continue with his projects. Probably the history had been very different if Cannes festival didn't recognize the work of one of the greatest directors ever. Now, this movie is considered as a cult and classic, and a reference for many film makers world wide. Directors like Kurosawa, Bergman, Fellini, Godard, Kubrick and so many more talked about this film (and Buñuel work in general) as magnificent, superb, brilliant. That's why this film is so important. Talking about the movie and the history, we can stand out the surrealist images along the entire movie. The scene of Pedrito's dream is nothing but brilliant. Then when the blind man is assaulted by the young kids there is a reference with the chicken in front of him. When El Jaibo is killed by the cop we see the image floating around with a dog. This is the first FREE work of Buñuel since the "the golden age" in 1930. He made a totally new concept for Mexican films. He told the audiences that real life is not a happy history, is made of common people with problems, passions, misery and even in that conditions is possible to have the most deeply emotions. He showed on screen the impacting endings, beautiful images and shakes the conscience of thousands. "Los olvidados" is one of his finest films and with no doubt the first great Mexican movie (fair to mention Emilio Fernadez' "Maria Candelaria (1944) and "Publerina" (1948) as it closest contending). Recently and alternate ending for the movie was released to the public. In that sequence we saw Pedrito returning to the children house, after he bought the cigarettes to the principal. A happy end. He was forced to shoot it, but again, fortunately the crude and strong outcome prevailed for the good of the history, to show us that a lot of times real life is not necessary a happy conclusion, that sometimes there are children with good intentions in wrong environments, that poverty is a monster that is consuming the majority, that horrible crimes could be committed with apparently cold blood; that sometimes someone (like Buñuel) could shake our conscience once a while. "Los Olvidados" a must see movie and reference.
The story of troubled youth and urban violence has been told many
times, but this is, perhaps, the best film on the subject ever made.
This is an unblinking look at the hell on earth that looks like slums
of Mexico City back in 1950s. It is also a masterful combination of
gritty realism and Buñuel's surrealism (young Pedro's dream of Virgin
Mary with a face of his mother whose love he desperately needs but
All the characters, including a young boy caught up in a criminal world but trying to be good, his tired mother who does not have time to love her children, the brutal and cruel gang leader with his own story that breaks your heart are not just wonderfully written and acted, they are absolutely real and would stay with you long after the film is over. Shocking, erotic, and sad, this is a masterpiece the perfect film from the beginning until the harrowing and devastating end.
Atheist, Marxist, Freudian, Surrealist, anarchist, fetishist, satirist,
or Spaniard, Luis Buñuel was all these or more
One of the greatest of
all filmmakers, Buñuel expressed an extraordinary personal vision of
the world through an exceptional self-effacing special taste, creating
a body of work unequaled in its abundance of meaning and its power by
In 1946, Buñuel moved to Mexico where, between more conventional assignments, he summed up his creativity with a vengeance His first masterpiece of this prolific period, "The Young and the Damned" was a masterpiece of social surrealism and the founding work of third world barrio repulsion
Portraying the distress of delinquents in MexicoCity's streets, he admitted the effects of shockingly cruel environment but declined to glamorize his victim-heroes: the gang torments a blind beggar who is himself a skillful paedophile, while a Freudian dream the most 'innocent' boy fights a friend for his mother' s sexual favors
The film is powerful enough to make a one firm man weep or encourage a true-believer to lose hope Once seen, its disturbing images can never be forgotten
Buñuel's most serious, concerned and poignant film. If 'les Quatre cent
coups' (1959, Truffaut) is good, this is brilliant. Only the
cinematography, which is still very good, can not equal the level of that
film. Everything in this meticulous film has a purpose: nothing is left to
coincidence and 10 seconds missed is fatal (the brilliance we're only used
from Kurosawa and Eisenstein). Buñuel uses his intuitive graphics and
metaphoric sequences, rather than fancy lighting and cocky cinematography,
to emphasize his concern with the boys (the protagonists: the 'forgotten
ones') and his aversion to the apathy of the fathers (who haven't much
screen time) who mind-numbed think about sanctions rather than the causes of
'Los Olvidados' deals with the distance between two generations, especially the distance between fathers and sons. Where that distance in 'a Clockwork Orange' and 'Fight Club' leads to virtually unbridled violence, and in 'les Quatre cent coups' (1959, Truffaut) to other misdemeanors, not to mention the innocent mischief in 'les Mistons' (1957, Truffaut, short), here it leads to callousness and abuse of whatever is in the way. But in the way of what? Do the lives of 'the forgotten ones' have a direction at all, apart from trite survival?
Although M (1931, Fritz Lang) already focuses on the psychological problems that delinquents can have (first serial killer on celluloid ever), the other movies mentioned above are all younger, so I tend to believe that Los Olvidados was a groundbreaking film and inspired the other filmmakers. Correct me if I'm wrong. Los Olvidados deals with the distance from the apathetic parents, in Clockwork the parents are petit-bourgeois populace, in Fight Club seem to exist no parents at all (generation x) and in Quatre cent coups the parents have their own problems and not enough persuasiveness to create a solid ground. Finally Los Olvidados reminded me of 'Rocco e i suoi fratelli' (1962, Visconti), where a family moves to the city too and a disciplinary father figure lacks.
This is another Buñuel film that seems to have no precise beginning and no end. It's just there with all its brilliance to raise a matter, and should not be missed, for it demands a distinguished place in film history somewhere between M and A Clockwork Orange.
Why o why can't we vote 11 :(
"Los Olvidados" focuses the drama mainly in the bandit 'El Jaibo',
justarrived from a reformatory (where he learnt 'new techniques' of
robbery), Pedro (Alfonso Mejía), a boy rejected by his mother and
Ojitos (Mario Ramirez), abandoned by his family and the new comer to
the group, showing a few hopeless days of a group of marginal youths,
in the slums of Mexico in 1950, with the leadership of 'El Jaibo'
(Roberto Cobo). . Each one of these boys is in a stage of criminality
life: El Jaibo is graduated, Pedro is leaning and Ojitos will start.
The restored B&W picture on DVD is splendid. Although taking place in
Mexico, 1950, this masterpiece could be Rio de Janeiro or any other big
city in a third world country in the present days. The end of the plot
is marvelous. Fortunately the alternative end has never been used.
Outstanding! My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Os Esquecidos" ("The Forgotten")
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