Los olvidados (1950)

In this modern age it’s kind of nice to know that shonky English subtitling of the sort you used to get on Hong Kong film prints isn’t a lost art; it’s just kind of disappointing to see it applied to what’s widely considered one of the best films ever made. I don’t know where Umbrella sourced their DVD master from, but clearly it comes from a company that doesn’t employ a native English speaker to get the subtitles right… Anyway, there’s a scene shot from the inside of a shop looking through the window onto the street outside so we can’t hear what’s being said out there, but we still know that when a middle-aged man approaches a young boy who looks to be about 10 while the latter is looking into the shop, the man is evidently a pedophile looking to score. If you can think of another film made in that period anywhere on Earth that’s as upfront as that, you’re better than me… It’s a scene that floored me, and it sums up the basic ruthlessness of the film; though Bunuel was inspired by neorealism he also criticised it, and goes much further than surely any other filmmaker of the time. While I give him credit for doing so, I have to admit to otherwise being left almost totally cold by the film. Obviously it’s a major progenitor of dozens of other social realism films of what might be called the “Horror of Lower-Class People’s Lives” school, and there’s a similar empty bleakness at work here. I’m sure it makes me a bad person but I didn’t feel like Los olvidados particularly gave me anything, no characters to be interested in, no sense that the grimness served any particular purpose. It’s one of those classics I’ve never had any great interest in seeing for some reason, to be honest, and unlike some other films I wasn’t enthused by before I saw them I didn’t find that finally watching it made me feel I’d been wrong all this time.

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