Olvidados, Los / Young and the Damned, The (1950)

“Listen to me, my darling — you’re not that bad.”

Synopsis:
In the slums of Mexico City, a boy (Alfonso Mejia) whose over-worked mother (Estela Inda) refuses to love him joins forces with a thuggish ex-con (Roberto Cobo) who swears him to secrecy after witnessing a murder.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “strong social drama, directed by Luis Bunuel” possesses a “realistic atmosphere” and “unsympathetic portrayal of young gang members… whose constant hunger is no excuse for” their “sadistic” behavior. He comments that “Bunuel offers no solution to the juvenile-delinquency problem — although the mother is chastised for being a neglectful parent — but conveys that a boy growing up in such poverty is doomed”. He adds that “viewers will be shocked at how unsentimental and uncompromising the film is”, given that the “kids are brutal and he doesn’t spare them tragic ends that are usually reserved for adults in movies”. Thankfully, “memorable surrealistic dream sequences” occasionally lift the material into the realm of compassion and psychological insight — and the lyrical soundtrack prevents one from devolving into utter despair while watching these kids trying to survive in such an unforgiving world. Although Bunuel’s story isn’t pleasant, it resonates with authenticity, and should be seen at least once.

Note: Peary writes that this film “ranks with De Sica’s Shoeshine” — which he adores — but I find Bunuel’s non-sentimental approach more impactful than De Sica’s.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography

  • The effectively surreal mother-son dream sequence

  • Fine ethnographic footage of life in Mexico City


  • Many moments of heartbreaking violence and squalor


Must See?
Yes, as a powerful if bleak classic.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Olvidados, Los / Young and the Damned, The (1950)”

  1. A once-must, for its place in both cinema and world culture history.

    FFs who are only familiar with Bunuel’s more-modern films may not realize how well he handled material that was rather removed from the surreal elements that he preferred. ‘Los Olvidados’ is a perfect example of Bunuel’s ability with pure realism (outside of the two short dream sequences in the film).

    Peary is inaccurate when he states that “Bunuel offers no solution”. This film is prefaced with the warning that the problems of poverty thrive when “progressive forces” do not step in… when a government (esp. if it is able) does not address issues of inequality. Later in the film, this sentiment is echoed when the warden of the correctional farm the protagonist Peter is sent to bemoans the fact that he cannot “lock up misery” itself instead of the young boys who fall prey to it.

    ‘Los Olvidados’ remains a very strong film and one that is very well made. A big plus here (as noted) is the effective work of DP Gabriel Figueroa. Figueroa shot over 200 films – though most of them were made in Mexico and most likely not exported. However, he did collaborate with Bunuel a number of times and occasionally worked on American films (once for John Ford, a few times on films starring Clint Eastwood and twice – memorably – for John Huston: ‘The Night of the Iguana’ and ‘Under the Volcano’).

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