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THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ

Mexico, 1955 (MIFF 1961, Programme 10)

Director: Luis Buñuel

In The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz., Mexico's great director, Luis Bunuel, continued his investigation of psycho-sexual aberrations and false moral values — a remarkable comedie noire containing almost all the features of its director's unique personality. A small boy who sees his governess shot dead before his eyes, grows up the victim less of a traumatic shock than of a rich, doting, bourgeois family background. He is convinced that he is destined to be a murderer of women, but is continually baulked each time he tries to put his conviction into practice. To satisfy his abnormality, he melts life-size wax effigies of his intended victims in a furnace.

Despite a small budget and the addition of an unplanned commercial ending the film remains one of Bunuel's most enjoyable macabre oddities — a tragi-comic variation of the paranoic theme. Unlike the rest of Bunuel's gallery of hidden, hypocritical, or open scoundrels, Archibaldo's only calling in life is to become a scoundrel; but he is constantly and easily forestalled by all the more conventional scoundrels of everyday life. The film lends itself to various interpretations, but for all its controversial nature Bunuel's picture has a comparatively direct purpose — to present a mystery and, at the same time the key to it.

A typically cool and yet piquant flavour resides throughout in this rich mixture of real and abstract, real and imagined; with a perfect balance maintained between morbid wit and blood-stained drama by keeping the macabre elements this side of unpleasantness. Though camerawork, music and sets all effectively underline this balance, Bunuel seems to care little about the formal shape of his picture. Sudden flashbacks people and threads of narrative pop up as anarchically as do his characteristic objects — blades, insects and dummies. Dullish dialogues with actors stagily grouped alternate with purely cinematic visions; each camera set-up is exploited to the utmost. What he obviously does care about however, is conveying his distinctive view of a savage disillusioned and rebellious humanism through a hypnotically powerful imagery; and, in fact, this film provides yet another reminder that Bunuel is one of the few truly individual visionaries of the cinema.

See also...

NAZARIN

Luis Bunuel's film is a kind of summary of his style and his ideas. It is a truly great film. John Huston called it a masterpiece on the level of Bicycle Thieves, Bardem declares that its final scene ... More »

THE YOUNG ONE

Bunuel used an island off the coast of one of the southern states to make this film about a Negro on the run - a story of innocence and corruption. ... The film's simple plot transcends its one ... More »

THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL

Guests arrive at an elegant dinner party to find that the servants have mysteriously disappeared. At the end of the party all the guests find excuses not to leave. It soon becomes clear that none of ... More »

LOS OLVIDADOS

Los Olvidados (meaning the forgotten ones) was made in Mexico City slums with mostly non¬professional young actors whose talents lie in their simplicity, their obedience to brilliant direction ... More »

SIMON OF THE DESERT

Short, sharp and astounding, this film provides a teasing bridge between the Old Testament Buñuel (Viridiana) and the New (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie). Simon of the Desert concerns ... More »

L’ÂGE D’OR

"Our sexual desire has to be seen as the product of centuries of repressive and emasculating Catholicism... it is always coloured by the sweet sense of sin," wrote Bunuel in his autobiography My Last ... More »

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