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this film is included on UNESCO's Memory of the World register
on 12 November 2010
It's several decades since I last saw Buñuel's Los Olvidados , a powerful, unsentimental and unflinching look at the lives of a gang of slum children set in Mexico City. After viewing this DVD it's clear that what I had retained in my memory was a general impression of its style and the visceral emotional impact it made on me many years ago, but I had remembered very little of the actual content. Even the stunning image of the last shot that forms the desperately bleak ending I had slightly misremembered.
So, the result of all this is that to all intents and purposes it was like seeing it for the first time. And the film is a revelation. It begins as if we are about to see a documentary including a caption that states that everything we are about to see is fact, but in a Buñuelsque inversion the film thereafter is clearly a constructed narrative drama. It's equally clear he intended that we should interpret what we see as real events, not as fictional invention and that this is what happens to such people and that it isn't very pleasant. The idea of the factual nature of the narrative is underscored by the apparently Italian neorealist inspired cinematography, although this also is subverted by Buñuel's strange obsession with chickens and by the inclusion of the most astonishing and accomplished 'dream sequence' that is a masterpiece in its own right.
Although the film intertwines several story-lines the main action focuses on the brutal gang leader Jaibo and his fatal influence over the younger Pedro. Buñuel is unequivocal, the world that these slum dwellers inhabit is a cesspit and it will remain so as long as they remain poor. For the foreseeable future, poor is just how they will remain, except Pedro, for these are the events on his road to Calvary.
As for this 60th Anniversary Edition don't expect too much. The print quality ranges from reasonably good to some poor fuzzy night-time shots. It's not a restoration just UK release of the Films Sans Frontieres copy from France. The extra is a 15 minute critique by Derek Malcolm.