Edited By Danielle Hipkins and Roger Pitt
Los Olvidados: A Damning Verdict on Neorealism’s Aesthetic and Moral Positions
Los Olvidados [The Young and the Damned] (1950), Buñuel’s third Mexican film, is the story of a group of children struggling to survive in Mexico City. The film explores a theme that can be said to be typical of neorealism: the struggle for survival as a child amidst the ruins of a morally corrupt state. Pedro (Alfonso Mejía), the film’s central character, is a boy who falls in with the wrong crowd, led by the charismatic Jaibo (Roberto Cobo). He tries to go straight, but time and again his attempts fail. After he witnesses Jaibo murder the hard-working Julián (Javier Amézcua), Pedro tries to break ties with the gang. Kicked out by his mother, wanted by the police for a crime he did not commit and pursued by his former gang, Pedro is desperate and on the run. In the end Jaibo catches up with him, and murders him. The film ends with the shocking image of Pedro’s lifeless body lying on a rubbish heap on the edge of the city.
This chapter investigates Buñuel’s use of the figure of the child to reflect on Italian neorealism and its aesthetic and moral positions. It argues that Buñuel’s film is a mordant satire of Italian neorealism. Specifically, it contends that the children in Los Olvidados show striking similarities with the child heroes of Ladri di biciclette [Bicycle Thieves] (Vittorio De Sica, 1948), Sciuscià [Shoeshine] (De Sica, 1946) and...
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