Monday, June 27, 2011

THE YOUNG ONE (Luis Bunuel, 1960, Mexico)

A moral triptych as two adults become trapped by the steel jaws of racial propaganda and a child falls victim to male enhancement. Director Luis Bunuel creates a powerful story condemning the belief systems that fuel racism and statutory rape. He creates an island in an ocean of despair and allows the drama to reach flashpoint where even holy water cannot douse the flames.

Evvie is like the fragile doe kept on a leash, a pet for Miller who is the game warden of this isolated community. Into this environment stumbles a stranger: Traver is a black man accused of raping a white woman. Evvie accepts the stranger at face value (not knowing his past), and is scared at first but soon recognizes his actions as reactionary but fair: he takes the shotgun, food, ammo, and tools but leaves money for the items. Miller is a passionate racist, white trash who condemns Traver and passes judgment, not based on facts but on the color of his skin. And Evvie is stuck in the middle of this war, victim herself of Miller’s sexual appetite. Like the raccoon that raids the henhouse, these predatory beliefs devour this microcosm.

Bunuel doesn’t give the audience black and white answers: he develops are story of dimension and moral gravity by introducing the Reverend Fleetwood and a hardcore southern redneck named Jackson as “mirrors” to reflect Traver and Miller. Evvie remains the only true innocent as her childhood is penetrated by the callous Miller, a man old enough to be her grandfather. Jackson is without merit, a cruel ignoble person (I don’t even consider his type to be a man) who wants nothing more than to murder Traver: this is a man who considers child rape acceptable (wink, wink) but would kill a black man with the slightest provocation...and enjoy it. Reverend Fleetwood is the voice of reason but his holy words echo hollowly in these guttural halls.

The final act is powerful and provocative as Miller begins to understand Traver’s plight and helps him escape the island. Though still despicable, Bunuel at least imbues Miller's character with the slightest possibility of change…unlike Jackson. And Evvie is still the simple child who dances in her high heeled shoes.

Final Grade: (B+)

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