I watched "Gran Casino" and "The Young One" about four times each. I first got into Bunuel from "The Phantom of Liberty" (1974). After watching that, "The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972), "The Exterminating Angel" (1962) and "L' Age D'or" (1930), I thought I had a good idea of what Bunuel consisted of. When I got this two disc set, I found I had been mistaken.
"The Young One" AKA "White Trash" shows alot of separation between Bunuel and the establishment. He paints a picture of a devious preacher, white racism and black innocence in the class struggle from the United States. The entire movie has a depressing, but entertaining quality about it. The movie seems incomplete and lacking gestalt. Whatever it is, it throws out traditional middle-class American understanding of race relations as the fault of the African-Americans. The cinematography develops a superb stifling, claustrophobic quality. The two primary stories in the movie, one of a young orphan being taken advantage of by a racist game warden that her recently deceased grandfather worked with and a black man on the run from an ostensibly false charge of rape get entangled but inexplicably have little palpable conflict. The reproduction is good...not excellent, the sound is good and it has subtitles. The movie content is, lets say 8/10. If the two stories had more overlapping conflict and there was more resonance to the prejudice, it could have made 9 or even 10/10. This movie is not as solid as "The Defiant Ones" (1958), which has more texture to the conflict of bigotry. "The Young One" almost apologizes for the racist characters Miller and Jackson, it makes it a depressing piece of scenery, but fails to give it dimension. The alternate title for this movie is "White Trash" and, if I might be so bold, gives the movie a different shadow that makes the movie's intention more obvious by Bunuel.
"Gran Casino" is more subtle in terms of Bunuel's directing influence, but its there, nonetheless. It is primarily a musical, but the background story, like so many American musicals of the 40s and 50s is more ripe and moving. It involves a criminal who gets a job for a gadfly of an engineer who is trying to buck the powers that be to drill for oil. If you don't speak Spanish, push the subtitle button, but I liked this movie as much as The Young One, the texture of the setting is sweaty and brutally authentic. Its gritty, but Bunuel implies, as he does in "White Trash" that no man is monochromatic, there are no Cowboys and Indians, that there are elements of good and evil in man. He also downplays the righteousness of law and order, whether its in the United states in "White Trash" or in Mexico in "Gran Casino". Bunuel is arguing that a man who is in jail or on the lam is not irredeemable and may have some value in the final analysis. The underlying story is that just because somebody happens to be maligned or under scrutiny, that they may indeed be innocent and suspicion is often unwarranted. The music is good, the reproduction is slightly better than "White Trash" and the sound is slightly better. If I didn't speak Spanish, I must admit, I'd give this movie lower marks as the average watcher might, but I think its worthy of 8/10 too. Close to 9/10. Bunuel apparently didn't like this movie much. He felt the plot was boring, and in the style of a musical, the story is thinner than would be a straight drama. Bunuel, however, squeezed every drop of life and love out of that script as was possible. I think I liked this movie most to see another world, one of Mexico in the 40s. As Quentin Tarantino put it, by way of Vincent Vega: "Its the little differences". This isn't a "Leave it to Beaver" or "Honeymooners" world the movie is set in by any means. It has a very similar feel to the great work of Orson Welles "A Touch of Evil" (1958). That might be exactly what appeals to me about this movie too.
Both of these movies require a rejection of understanding of Bunuel's direction style. I had to watch them once each to just accept that these movies are not representative of Bunuel's legacy, but just dimension to his genius. These don't represent a period in Bunuel's career the way "Through a Glass Darkly" represents a period in Ingmar Bergman's work. They aren't the growth of a young film maker, like Alfred Hitchcock's "Stage Fright" or "Sabotage". These are movies Bunuel did, perhaps, without footnote or reason, perhaps to have a job, perhaps to get more creative control. They are worthy films and need a watch or three each. Forget Bunuel did them and what other films he did and I think the enjoyment factor of them goes up.