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On 30 September 1659, the aristocratic British Robinson Crusoe's ship sinks and he miraculously survives on a deserted island somewhere in South America. He retrieves a dog, Rex, and cat, Sam, from the shipwreck together with some supplies, weapons, clothes and tools and builds a shelter. He soon learns how to survive by cooking, farming, harvesting the crops. Then the loneliness begins to haunt him, especially after the loss of Rex. When he sees a group of cannibals in the island, tension and fear become part of his life. Later he saves the life of a savage that was going to be eaten by the cannibals; he names him Friday and they become friends. When Robinson Crusoe sees Caucasians on the island, he finds that Captain Oberzo was the victim of a mutiny and he helps him to retrieve his ship. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The three lead actors all died in 2005. See more »
When Robinson looks at a neighboring island for the first time through his telescope, the scene shown as though looking through the telescope is just a picture of the island - nothing in it moves including the waves. See more »
as conventional storytelling it's pretty standard, but as a Bunuel picture it's got plenty of subversion in store
In maybe his only time of giving into a commercial project, Luis Bunuel, deliciously notorious surrealist and satirist, took off his usual run of Mexican-produced films of the decade and adapted The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. On the surface, if one weren't familiar with the director's works at all, it has the seeming quality of being an average B-movie adventure of a man in solitude who is saved by his man Friday and his own resourcefulness. The story of the cast away has ended up having better days, specifically in Zemeckis's Cast Away, as far as with how the actual details of the story unfurl. It boils down to this: Crusoe gets shipwrecked on an island, takes what he can from the ship (some supplies, actually lots, a few animals), builds a camp, and little by little after the novelty of a deserted island wears off he goes near mad in loneliness. That is until the cannibals arrive, dropping off a man whom Robinson names Friday and quasi-domesticates as his servant-cum-friend. This is a story that even school-children know, and has even appeared as a goof on a Peabody & Sherman cartoon.
But the fun in watching this rendition of Crusoe is for fans of the director to see what he does with the material. It's not a perfect affair, truth be told, as Bunuel isn't the greatest director of suspense, particularly in the climax. But what is essential for a film with as basic a plot as this to have is an understanding of what can be subverted, lightly and slightly twisted into personal expression. This is nothing new for many of today's famous filmmakers ala Spielberg or Scorsese, but for Bunuel he approaches it in ways that his best fans will be keen to look for and get in nice quantities. For example, as he is known more often than not as a director of dreams (his best film, Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, has dreams within dreams in savagely playful fashion), we see Crusoe having a dream early on where there's soft gel on the sides of the screen (maybe to appease the producers, who knows), and in it Crusoe dreams of his father pouring sauce or other on a pig, and images of Crusoe in water, cut together and acted in truly classic style. It's probably even one of his better dream sequences, followed up by another later on that features a pretty funny image to boot.
Actually, part of what makes Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe so enjoyable is spotting the references to past films- his palm covered with some bugs speaks right away cheerfully to Un Chien Andalou- as well as just mildly absurd usages of animals on screen (how did the cat have kittens?), and even Christian imagery in simply showing Crusoe with his huge beard, which Dan O'Hearlihy sports proudly for most of the film, and even carrying what looks like a cross (!) but turns out to be the stand for a scarecrow. Then there's also the aspect to the bond between Crusoe and Friday, which is almost a pop-art form of one of Bunuel's own treatises on the division of the classes in many of his films (i.e. Viridiana and Exterminating Angel). In a way it works just as well as a simple story anyway, because Bunuel is able to have his cake and eat it, by having a tale that as stilted it might be in its not-quite-high-or-low budget and form of writing/narration at times is fairly gripping in an 'old-school' way, as well as enough room to bring out his flashes of brilliant imagery and jabs of surrealism, and even absurdism.
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