the septenary (diapholom) wrote,
the septenary

Los Olvivados (1950),

which takes us into the sordid world of a Mexico City suburb. It is
certainly a realistic film, but its mythical aspects come as no
surprise from such a poetic director who, besides, is marked by
surrealism. The city here is the centerless and peripheral world of
the subproletariat, a world of waste grounds, of garbage dumps
where dead babies are sometimes thrown; yet it still has a market
where there is a merry-go-round to delight the children, and also
meeting places for young hooligans. Shortly after the beginning of
the film it is here, at a crossroads and at the foot of a fountain, that
a little peasant of twelve or thirteen appears, called Ojitos ("Little-
Eyes" in Spanish), dressed in a poncho and straw hat. We soon learn
that his father has abandoned him here a few hours earlier, probably
for good. One might expect a heroic mission to await him, since this
scene evokes the theme of the exposed child, left in this transitory
place that is the world with its armed robbers, murderers, and all
its perils---an exposure that seems to be symbolized by the foun-
tain---just as child-heroes of tales and myths are often given to
the waters. But there is nothing of this, any more than in the myth
of Hermes. Ojitos meets a blind old man who lives by singing and
playing crude musical instruments; he helps him cross the street,
then serves him as guide and finds onlookers for him. Later one sees
him teaching Meche, a girl from a poor family, that to keep from
falling sick one should carry a dead man's tooth. He offers Meche
the necklace on which is threaded the one he wears, which he
himself went to find in a cemetery by moonlight. He also teaches
her that to keep one's skin smooth and young-looking, one should
rub it with a rag soaked in milk. He serves several times as news-
bringer to a gang of children. Still at the crossroads of the market
place, it is again Ojitos who tells his friend Pedro that the latter is
no longer wanted by the police.
        Ojitos thus possesses most of the attributes of Hermes. Cross-
this little vagabond hovers between country and town,
having left the one without ever belonging to the other, and hangs
about by the day at the intersection marked by the fountain in the
marketplace. Communication: he is a mediator, however modest,
between the world of the dead and that of the living (the allusion
to the cemetery), and carries messages. Games and Shows: he
participates indirectly by helping the blind musician. Therapeutics
and Magic:
he shows a flair for cures, for prolonging youth and life.
His status in the film is the very special one of marginal among the
marginals, since in the end practically nothing happens to him
while all around him are nothing but thefts, violence, and mur-
ders---beside some acts of real humanity. When Pedro is killed,
Ojitos leaves the story as if he had only passed through it as a
temporary guide, and tells Meche simply that he is going off to look
for his father again.

Like long echoes that blend far-off
In a unity tenebrous and profound
Vast as night and vast as clarity
Perfumes, colors, and sounds co-respond

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