A group of juvenile delinquents live a violent and crime-filled life in the festering slums of Mexico City, and the morals of young Pedro are gradually corrupted and destroyed by the others...
Labelled as a surrealist, Luis Buñuel startles with this down to earth film that can remind of the Neo-Realists active at the same time in Italy. Recalling the modern near-masterpiece of Fernando Meirelles City of God, Los olvidados was one of the many influences on François Truffaut for his breakthrough film 400 Blows. Genuinely violent and crude, Buñuel’s landmark of a movie is bleak, dark, and very personal. Instead of romancing the scums like, let’s say, Slumdog Millionaire, Buñuel depicts a world where no one is spared and where hope isn't what waits for you at the corner of every street. He deals with every problem possible and even the good natured characters have a sense of naivety that in real life there are no happy endings.
Our two main characters are Jaibo and Pedro. While one (Jaibo) is a thief and a recently escaped prisoner, the other is a little bum that follows him but still has something good inside him. However, since he faces adversity and a complete ignorance from his mother, he is split between the influence of Jaibo and his will to behave. Illustrated with a superb dream sequence that shouts Buñuel this situation is well exploited. On the other side, Jaibo is the representation of bad behaviour and the viewer has no choice but to hate the disgusting acts of the young man. It is indeed a revolting picture and the fact that the movie was shown only three days because it shocked the Mexican government can easily tell that it was not that far from reality. Shot by a recurrent Buñuel collaborator, Gabriel Figueroa gives a genuine almost documentary look to the images with his great use of lighting and shadows.
My first encounter with Buñuel was his masterpiece The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, and after I discovered his early surrealist films. Los olvidados might be a little unsettling in his filmography, while being personal with the dream sequence, the pouring of milk on the legs, and some sensual elements, every Buñuel enthusiast will get a kick out of it. During his Mexican exile he made many films that may deserve much attention but Los olvidados is the pinnacle of his passage in Central America.