Elements of neorealistic style in Los olvidados (1950)

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Information about Elements of neorealistic style in Los olvidados (1950)

Published on March 2, 2014

Author: itsirkas

Source: slideshare.net


by Ioannis Tsirkas

Elements of neorealistic style in Los olvidados (1950) by Ioannis Tsirkas University of Sussex

This presentation is about…  the neorealistic stylistic elements of Los Olvidados (1950) and not its theoretical relationship with the movement of Neorealism.  Bicycle Thieves (1948) will be used only as an appropriate example of the slack framework of neorealistic cinematic style in general.  Comparison isn’t the main purpose of this essay, but it will be used as a tool for a more effective illustration of our arguments.

We will…  introduce the concept of neorealistic style  and through the examination of frame grabs and a short compilation video of sequences from the films we will try to locate them.  In the end, we will deploy our conclusion.

Our objectives are…  to indicate that the elements of Los olvidados’ neorealistic style seems to be a conscious choice of Luis Buñuel.  The discussion about the influence of Neorealism in Los olvidados has been started from its release.

Luis Buñuel’s Los olvidados (1950)…      Un chien andalou (1929): France/short/surrealistic L'âge d'or (1930): France/60 min/surrealistic Las Hurdes (1933): Spain/short/surrealistic documentary Gran Casino (1947): Mexico/commercial/musical El gran calavera (1949): Mexico/commercial/comedy Los olvidados (1950) Mexico/multi-genre?/international breakthrough/award-winning  Storyline: ‘Pedro and Jaibo belong to a gang of delinquents in Mexico City. They steal from a blind man (Don Carmelo), who is eventually befriended by a young Indian boy abandoned by his father. They mug a helpless cripple and Jaibo murders another boy, whom he accuses of treachery. Pedro craves his mother’s love. She refuses to show him any affection because he is the child of rape. She forces Pedro to surrender himself to the authorities, who send hi to a reformatory. Jaibo, an orphan, seduces Pedro’s mother. The two boys meet up again outside the reformatory. Jaibo steals money entrusted to Pedro by the reformatory governor and kills his friend. Jaibo is eventually shot dead by the police.’ (Evans 1995, p.73)

The cinematic style of Italian Neorealism  The term “neorealism” as a code word of an artistic resistance movement than as a descriptive term of a cinematic school.  A slack framework of cinematic style in spite of a strict system of canons (Bondanella 2001, p.34; Marcus 1986, p.22; Sorlin 1996, p.91).  Its main organic elements were the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. shootings on external places using natural lighting and scenery (Monticelli 1998, p.455) amateur actors with contemporary costumes and a little makeup (Wood 2005, p.89) the every day people had the leading role in the plots and not the intrigues of the bourgeoisie (Bordwell and Thompson 1997, p.463) the topics of the scenarios derived form direct social reality and from the timeliness of that era through non beautified incidents taken from everyday life (Bondanella 2001, p.34) emphasis to the social role of the heroes and not to the analysis of their personality (Bondanella 2006, p.32) literary structure and naturalism were abandoned (Monticelli 1998, p.455) new perception of montage matches the real with the cinematic time (Marcus 1986, p.33) the narrative style referring more to a reportage than to a novel rarely made use of soundtrack and the sounds were added during the process of postproduction (Nowell-Smith 2007, p.233)

Los Olvidados and Neorealistic Style  ‘Buñuel […] seemed to make a conscious search for the most gruesome and repellent aspects that reality can offer.’ (Barcia 1953, p.394)  ‘The “realism” in Los Olvidados is more far-reaching and less close to apparent reality.’ Barcia 1953, p.397)  ‘[…] a stark, realistic portrayal of the brutal existence of slum children in Mexico City.’ (Mora 1982, p.91)  ‘In giving Los olvidados its feeling of actuality, Buñuel used techniques learned, in large part, from the Italian neorealists […]. (Jones 2005, p.24)

Why Bicycle Thieves (1948)?  It provides an illustration of neorealist principles.  Luis Buñuel had declared publicly his admiration about the film and its director (Acevedo-Munoz 2003, p.67; Jones 2005, p.25), although he never accepted directly its influence in Los olvidados and his criticism to the whole movement was negative (Hershfield 1996, p.143; Acevedo-Munoz 2003, p.67). The time releases of the two films are also very close to each other.  ‘Bicycle Thieves (1948) has invariably and rightly been read as a key entry in the neorealist canon, and it is as much the combined power of that canon as it is any singly film that exerted such a powerful pull on the world’s audiences, critics and film-makers.’ (Gordon 2008, p.11)  ‘[…] producers Oscar Dancigers and Jaime Menasce came up with the idea of a tough film about Mexican urchins after seeing Shoeshine together; they then decided to offer it to Buñuel.’ (Jones 2005, p.20)

Let’s pass in the details…

Places  ‘The sets, of course, were readily available in the hovels and derelict sites of Mexico city itself.’ (Edwards 1983, p.89)  ‘Buñuel, co-screenwriter Luis Alcoriza, and production designer Edward Fizgerald spent six months doing field research inside the Mexico City slums where the movie’s action was to take place. They attempted to be particularly realist in their physical depiction of the environment – the interiors of shacks and shanties, the existence of animals, the number of people in each house, and so on. Buñuel and his team were concerned with being true to the “reality” that they found.’ (Acevedo-Munoz 2003, p.68)  ‘The film combines authentic outdoor settings and stylized studio interiors.’ (Gutiérrez-Albilla 2008, p.26)

Actors  ‘With the exception of Estella India (Marta) a well-known Mexican actress, Buñuel’s cast was relatively unknown, although some had acting experience.’ (Edwards 1983, p.89)

The leading roles in the plot  Buñuel in an interview to Nuevo Cine: ‘I decided to base Los olvidados on the lives of abandoned children […].’ (Edwards 1983, p.89)  ‘Los olvidados is populated by a cast of characters that represents the poorest of any society in situations that bring out only the worst in them […].’ (Acevedo-Munoz 2003, p.68)

The film’s topic and the heroes  ‘For me Los olvidados is […] a film with a social argument. To be true to myself I had to make a film of a social type.’ (Edwards 1983, p.90)  ‘Los olvidados, like the Spanish picaresque novel, and the post-war film masterpieces of Italian neorealism, has often been recognized and interpreted as a social critique. With its realistic depiction of overcrowded slum shanties, domestic abuse, incest, child abuse, crime and punishment, poverty, and the ineptness of public social services, it is an indictment of contemporary urban society.’ (Acevedo-Munoz 2003, p.67)  De Sica interpreted the film as an “offensive” comment to the society. (Hart 2004, p.69)  ‘[…] the film can legitimately be described as sociological study.’ (Hart 2004, p.71)

The film’s topic and the heroes  ‘Buñuel’s insistence on the documentary value of Los olvidados stemmed, in part, from his need to anticipate and disarm any reaction to the spectacle of poverty and violence that could easily have been construed as a slight to Mexico […].’ (Jones 2005, p.20)

[Narrative] style  ‘The references to “personajes auténticos” (“real characters”) and the visual style of the documentary opening in Los olvidados […] fulfil a desire […] to gesture playfully and ironically [...] at realist or neo-realist forms of filmmaking (especially as characterized by Rosselini and De Sica in Italy) […].’ (Evans 1995, p.77) ‘[…] Los olvidados is an urban drama, an arrabalera, as Mexicans pejoratively called the realist movies set in the slums and back alleys of the city. Like Vittorio De Sica’s Sciuscia (1946) and Bicycle Thieves (1948), both of which Buñuel admired, Los olvidados conforms to a picaresque structure.’ (AcevedoMunoz 2003, p.67)  ‘[…] Los olvidados has a robust storyline about some criminals in an urban setting which has led some critics to see the film as the revamping of a picaresque tale.’ (Hart 2004, p.67)  According to Edwards, through the film’s opening opening sequence Buñuel ‘[…] is once more presenting us not with a fiction but with a closely observed picture of the real world’ (Edwards 1983, p.92).

[Narrative] style  ‘Buñuel actually referred […] to Las Hurdes and Los olvidados as documentaries.’ (Jones 2005, p.20) ‘Buñuel planned carefully to give the shooting of Los olvidados the hit-or-miss quality of news coverage. In many sequences, the establishing shot comes late, or not at all. The composition seems haphazard. In one scene, the boy’s legs are cut off at the knees In another, one of the boys walks straight into the camera, momentarily darkening the screen. In the scene when the gang attacks the Blindman, the camera apparently has a hard time following the action, which is off-center or even off-screen. […] The camera at times follows random figures that have no relation to the drama except as par of the general milieu that generates it.’ (Jones 2005, p.24)

Let’s look at the films…

Places: The real locations of the films [Clip]


Documentary elements?

The opening sequence [Clip]

“hit-or-miss” style? [Clip]

Let’s try to epitomize what came up from the above…  ‘The impact of neo-realism on Los olvidados cannot be dismissed as easily as Buñuel would like.’ (Evans 1995, p.78)  ‘Buñuel […] took what he could use from the neorealists and molded it to his own ends. (Jones 2005, p.25)  ‘There was also the arrabalera, or urban melodrama (the genre that most closely fits Los Olvidados), though these were less popular among audiences, perhaps because of their pessimistic tone.’ (Polizzoti 2006, p.25).  ‘[…] Buñuel drew on Italian neorealism to achieve this aesthetic and epistemological break with the visual and moral conventions of classical Mexican and Hollywood cinema.’ (Gutiérrez-Albilla 2008, p.21)

Bibliography 1. 2. 3. Acevedo-Muñoz, Ernesto R. (2003) Buñuel and Mexico: The Crisis of National Cinema. Berkeley: University of California Press. Bondanella, Peter (2001) Italian Cinema: From Neorealism to the Present. 3rd edn. London and New York: Continuum. ——— (2006) ‘Italian Neorealism: The postwar Renaissance of Italian Cinema’ in Badley, Linda, Palmer, R. Barton and Schneider, Steven Jay (eds) Traditions in World Cinema. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, pp. 29-40. 4. Barcia, Rubia J. (1953) ‘Luis Buñuel’s Los Olvidados’, The Quarterly of Film, Radio and Television, 7(4), pp. 392-410. 5. Bordwell, David and Thompson, Kristin (1997) Film Art: An Introduction. 5th edn. New York: McGraw Hill. 6. Edwards, Gwynne (1983) The Discreet Art of Luis Buñuel: A Reading of his Films. London: Marion Boyars Publishers. 7. Evans, William Peter (1995) The Films of Luis Buñuel: Subjectivity and Desire. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 8. Gordon, Robert S. C. (2008) Bicycle Thieves. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 9. Gutiérrez-Albilla, Julián Daniel (2008) Queering Buñuel: Sexual Dissidence and Psychoanalysis in his Mexican and Spanish Cinema. London: Tauris Academic Studies. 10. Hart, Stephen (2004) ‘Buñuel’s Box of Subaltern Tricks: Technique in Los olvidados’ in Evans, Peter William and Santaolalla, Isabel (ed.) Luis Buñuel: New Readings. London: British Film Institute, pp. 65-79. 11. Hershfield, Joanne (1996) Mexican Cinema, Mexican Woman 1940-1950. Tuscon: Arizona University Press. 12. Jones, Julie (2005) ‘Los olvidados and the Documentary Mode’, Journal of Film and Video, 57(4). 13. Marcus, Millicent (1986) Italian Film in the Light of Neorealism. Princeton and Chichester: Princeton University Press. 14. Monticelli, Simona (1998) ‘Italian Post-war Cinema and Neo-Realism’ in Gibson, Pamela Church and Hill, John (eds) The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 455-460. 15. Mora, Carl J. (1982) Mexican Cinema: Reflections of a Society 1896-1959. Berkeley: University of California Press. 16. Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (2007) ‘Italian Neo-realism’ in Cook, Pam (ed) The Cinema Book. 3rd edn. London: British Film Institute, pp. 233-237. 17. Polizzoti, Mark (2006) Los Olvidados. London: British Film Institute. 18. Sorlin, Pierre (1996) Italian National Cinema 1896-1996. London and New York: Routledge. 19. Wood, Mary P. (2005) Italian Cinema. Oxford: Berg.

Some proposed subjects 1. Which were some of the social problems that made the two directors set off these two films and brought out their common emanation? 2. Which are the possible reasons of Buñuel’s approach to neorealistic style in Los olvidados (1950)? 3. Which are the main differences between the neorealistic style of Los olvidados (1951) and that of Bicycle Thieves (1948)?

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