The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Luis Bunuel, 1955)

The delirious journey of a mental disordered man, who is obsessed in making the perfect crime.

Another film from Luis Bunuel’s Mexican period, The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz, works on many recurrent themes of the director’s filmography with the use of dreamt or fantasized sequences, sexual provocation and its politics, and freudian elements of childhood traumas.

As with Bunuel’s other films of this era, this is a visually interesting film with sumptuous camera movements, and an imagery of suggestive sexual elements. With its overture with the death of the governess and the revealing of her legs you have everything that you need to know about this film. The suggestion that Archibaldo de la Cruz desires death to women and links it with sexual desire. Since that movie was made in 1955 it is easily readable as the choices to suggest sexual desire and not attribute the deaths to Archibaldo was to represent a repress sexual desire but also to respect some censorship rules. In fact, the movie is much more efficient in its representation of sexuality and the imaginary criminal life of its subject.

This is a deep film in its meanings and sadly a lesser known film in the vast filmography of its director. Sure it is not as important as Los Olvidados in his Mexican period, but The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz is essential as to its use of many surrealist elements like the mirrors and Bunuel’s foot fetish.

On my main reference list as a movie watching goal, this is the lowest ranked film in the Bunuel selection. However, this is one of the most underrated and this surpasses many titles that don’t even deserve their spot on the list. Sure it is not as celebrated as Un chien andalou or The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie but I believe that once a cinephile starts digging deeper into a cinéaste he must get into the lesser known titles and discover the director’s films as a whole.

Coming soon in my Bunuel reviews; El (1952) and The Exterminating Angel both also from his Mexican period. I’ll also try to get my hands on his most virulent punch in the face of religion Simon of the Desert and the last title I’ll have to watch will be Tristana that never really interested me.

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