Monday, February 08, 2016

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Luis Buñuel: The Young One

(I'm blogging again! I really don't have time for this, but I just can't let this one go.)

Surrealist film-maker Luis Buñuel has for long been one of my favourite directors, but in the recent years his stature in my eyes has even grown. I've really liked, even loved, some of his films I've seen recently, even though I'd've seen them before. One example is one of his Mexican melodramas, Èl, of which I wrote here. A more recent example is The Young One (1960), made in Mexico in English, with American actors. It was called La Joven in Mexico, which I believe means "the virgin", and it's only fitting the film's Finnish title is Neitsytsaari, meaning "The Island of Virgins" or "The Virgin Island". I won't go into the plot and its details, the Wikipedia entry will suffice. I just saw this film on screen on 35 mm film, and though I'd seen it earlier, I hadn't really realized what a magnificent little film it is.

It's a very current film tackling issues of racism and sexual abuse. You know, we also have this thing called hate speech in Finland, and it's getting very tiresome and worrisome at the same time. In swift dialogue, Buñuel reveals the speech patterns the racist uses: if the rapist is a white man, the woman is to blame, if the rapist is a black man, kill him. There's wonderful irony in the end: everything seems to be well, but the black man is still running from his hunters and the white man still can carry on raping the 12-year old girl. The priest, who at first seems to fight against abuse and racism, has to make a deal with the white man in order to get the black man to escape. This is no casual irony, it's a strike in the white heart of bourgeoisie.

Yet The Young One is also fluent entertainment. There's not much violent action, but Buñuel knows how to keep the story racing along. This is something many of his experimental colleagues don't know. The noir and western stalwart Zachary Scott is mighty unlikable, yet weirdly human as the white man in the lead. Key Meersman is captivatingly innocent in her almost only role. The film was written by Buñuel and Hugo Butler, who had earlier been blacklisted because of his communist sympathies. The film could indeed be too much for people like Donald Trump.

More Overlooked Films here, when they show up. (Edit: I guess Todd has had something else going on, since nothing has shown up.)


Elgin Bleecker said...

Juri – This is a Bunuel film I do not know. He was a hot topic back in college and we discussed what films like THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL were all about. (By the way, Woody Allen had some fun with Bunuel in his film MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.) Thanks for the post.

jurinummelin said...

THE YOUNG ONE doesn't seem to be easily available, there's a DVD, but it came out several years ago and might be now expensive. THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL is one of my favourites.