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Buñuel and Mexico: The Crisis of National Cinema

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Buñuel and Mexico
    Book Description:

    Though Luis Buñuel, one of the most important filmmakers of the twentieth century, spent his most productive years as a director in Mexico, film histories and criticism invariably pay little attention to his work during this period. The only book-length English-language study of Buñuel's Mexican films, this book is the first to explore a significant but neglected area of this filmmaker's distinguished career and thus to fill a gap in our appreciation and understanding of both Buñuel's achievement and the history of Mexican film. Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz considers Buñuel's Mexican films—made between 1947 and 1965—within the context of a national and nationalist film industry, comparing the filmmaker's employment of styles, genres, character types, themes, and techniques to those most characteristic of Mexican cinema. In this study Buñuel's films emerge as a link between the Classical Mexican cinema of the 1930s through the 1950s and the "new" Cinema of the 1960s, flourishing in a time of crisis for the national film industry and introducing some of the stylistic and conceptual changes that would revitalize Mexican cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93048-3
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In this book I analyze in context the relationship between Luis Buñuel’s career as a filmmaker in Mexico, Mexican politics, and the Mexican film industry. Buñuel’s Mexican films need to be understood, both in relationship to questions of national cinema and the nationalist orientation of classical Mexican cinema, and within the structure of the Mexican film industry in which Buñuel worked from 1946 to 1965. My purpose is to place Buñuel’s Mexican films, fromGran Casino(1946) toEnsayo de un crimen(1955), within the historical, political, and industrial contexts in which they were made. My purpose is to “nationalize”...

  6. 1 Mexican Cinema in the Time of Luis Buñuel
    (pp. 15-31)

    In order to reconsider Buñuel’s Mexican movies, we need first theorize what a national cinema is and how this concept of national cinema applies to and helps us to understand the film industry into which Luis Buñuel incorporated in 1946. We must look at the status of the Mexican film industry in the 1940s, the relationship of Mexican cinema to the country’s cultural institutions, and the relevance of “national cinema” in the cultural, educational, and political project of the Mexican Revolution. It is important to understand some of the social and political functions of cinema in Mexico in order to...

  7. 2 Buñuel and Mexico
    (pp. 32-56)

    After his landmark debut filmUn chien andalouin 1929 and the controversialL’Age d’Orin 1930, Luis Buñuel had a somewhat irregular career, until he reemerged from relative obscurity in 1950 with his third Mexican feature,Los olvidados.That film enjoyed international acclaim and, as André Bazin stated in 1951, it rescued Buñuel from being “swallowed up by the commercial cinema of the New World.”¹ Between his early surrealist phase (1929–32) and his “late” phase of European movies (1966–77), Luis Buñuel produced the largest body of his work, seventeen of his thirty-two films, in Mexico. Critics agree...

  8. 3 Los Olvidados and the Crisis of Mexican Cinema
    (pp. 57-79)

    Luis Buñuel’s first Mexican films,Gran Casino(1946–47) andEl gran calavera(1949) were self-reflexive yet mild forms of genre parody, and they were harmless, almost experimental. In the former case, Buñuel worked generic conventions for producer Óscar Dancigers (not to mention star Jorge Negrete, also one of the producers of the movie) and, in the latter case, he worked under powerful star-producer Fernando Soler. It took the commercial success ofEl gran calaverato guarantee Buñuel enough independence to pursue the serious social, political, and aesthetic issues ofLos olvidados (The Young and the Damned),his third Mexican...

  9. 4 Genre, Women, Narrative
    (pp. 80-110)

    The commercial and critical success ofEl gran calaveraandLos olvidadosin 1949 and 1950 was something of a mixed blessing for Luis Buñuel. It meant that he never lacked work after that (in each year 1951 and 1952, he made three movies), but it also meant that he had become a participant in the workings of the Mexican film industry. Working as a director in Mexico implied a number of limitations in terms of topics and creativity since a strict censorship code, designed to protect the national image and morals, was still in place.¹ Yet Buñuel retained control...

  10. 5 On the Road: Subida al Cielo and La Ilusión Viaja en Tranvía
    (pp. 111-123)

    In the social and economic context of President Miguel Alemán’ssexenio(1946–52),Subida al cieloandLa ilusión viaja en tranvía (Illusion Travels by Streetcar)are two of Luis Buñuel’s most “Mexican” movies. President Alemán’s administration signaled a greater and more systematic governmental attention to industry, commerce, national infrastructure, and economic development than previous administrations since the Revolution.¹ It also represented a period in which the gap between the wealthy and the poor became much more evident than in the preceding administrations of Manuel Ávila Camacho and Lázaro Cárdenas. Buñuel’s comedies of the decade,Subida al cielo(1951) and...

  11. 6 Masculinity and Class Conflict: Buñuel’s Macho-Dramas
    (pp. 124-142)

    The critical portrayal of men in Buñuel’s filmsEl Bruto (The Brute), Él (This Strange Passion),andEnsayo de un crimen (The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz)turns the instability of national politics and the economy into metaphoric renditions of troubled men. These three male protagonists engage respectively in homicidal, paranoid, and surrogate homosexual behavior: all clear violations of the Mexican patriarchal image of “wisdom, strength, courage, perseverance, self-control, dignified reserve, protection of the weak, punishment of wrongdoing.”¹ Buñuel’s leading men are evidently troubled in these movies, and because of an “agreement” that implicitly regulates the man’s image...

  12. Conclusion. From Buñuel to “Nuevo Cine”
    (pp. 143-152)

    WithThe Adventures of Robinson Crusoein 1952, Luis Buñuel broke new ground. By experimenting with a movie that was formally unlike anything in classic Mexican cinema, he earned respect for the adventure genre which belonged to the realm of B-type swashbucklers.The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe,co-produced by Producciones Tepeyac (Óscar Dancigers) and United Artists (USA) opened the way for a number of international co-productions in the following decade. These, Buñuel made with foreign talent and usually released abroad, or they went directly to film festivals before being released in Mexico.

    In 1952, for example, the original version of...

  13. Filmography of Luis Buñuel
    (pp. 153-158)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 159-176)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-186)
  16. Index
    (pp. 187-202)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 203-203)