Friday, August 19, 2011

El gran calavera (The Great Madcap)

The opening close-up of a jumble of feet is the nearest thing to a Buñuelian touch (they belong to drunk-tank bums) but he and old ham Soler lend a devilish tone to this story of a rich drunkard whose family dupes him into thinking he’s lost his fortune. The pace is easy-going to meandering and while socio-economic disparities are a constant rumble, there are no outright villains; the foibles of the bourgeoisie are treated with an affectionate lack of scorn and their poverty-row sojourn improves their prosperity, health and temperament. The only real loser is the church, as the bride-to-be flees altar, fortune hunter and sermon in favour of poor handsome Pablo who, in his salesman’s van outside the church, extols via loudspeaker the merits of Sin of Syria cream, Venus stockings and Devil’s ham. Minor in the oeuvre, but after the misfire of Gran Casino and nigh-on fifteen years without stepping behind a camera, the film’s importance lies not only in its cementing of Buñuel’s characteristically tidy technique, but also in its commercial success, which kickstarted Buñuel’s Mexican career and, most immediately, allowed for Los Olvidados.

d Luis Buñuel p Óscar Dancigers, Fernando Soler sc Janet Alcoriza, Luis Alcoriza ph Ezequiel Carrasco ed Carlos Savage pd Luis Moya m Manuel Esperón cast Fernando Soler, Rosario Granados, Andrés Soler, Rubén Rojo, Gustavo Rojo, Maruija Grifell, Francisco Jambrina
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