For various reasons, I am inordinately fond of the films that Luis Buñuel made in Mexico between 1946 and 1965. Since then, he has perhaps made greater films, but remember there is a big difference between fondness and admiration. Because these films were made in Mexico, where perhaps not enough money was budgeted for each production, the director had to use his ingenuity to make the films his own. And when he succeeded most, the results were wonderfully human and surreal. The films from this period that I liked the most are, in order of production:
- Los olvidados (1950). In the U.S. variously titled The Forgotten and The Young and the Damned.
- Susana (1951). In English: The Devil and the Flesh.
- Subida al cielo (1952). In English: Mexican Bus Ride and Ascent to Heaven (the literal translation of the Spanish title).
- El (1953), In English: This Strange Passion and Torments.
- La Ilusión viaja en tranvía (1954), In English: Illusion Travels by Streetcar.
- Abismos de pasíon (Cumbres borrascosas) (1954), In English: Wuthering Heights.
- The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954).
- Ensayo de un crimen (1955). In English: The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz.
- Nazarín (1959).
- El ángel exterminador (1962). In English: The Exterminating Angel.
Of these, the most admirable are the last two, just as the director was ready to step onto the world stage. But the ones I would like to watch over and over again are Mexican Bus Ride and Illusion Travels by Streetcar.
In the first film, a young man travels from a coastal village to a large market town on a long bus ride during which one passenger dies, another gives birth, and he himself is seduced by the lusciously ripe Lilia Prado (see photo above). Somehow all works out well, almost magically in fact. I have seen this film half a dozen times and am still not close to getting tired of it.
Illusion Travels by Streetcar involves—and tell me this is not unique—a hijacking of a streetcar in which a disconsolate streetcar driver who hijacks a streetcar, takes it on a route of his own devising while offering free rides to a motley crew of passengers who join him on his route.
Both films are hilarious and loving. It is obvious that Buñuel had considerable feeling for the people of Mexico, which shows through again and again.
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