For Reel

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)
April 21, 2012, 2:38 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Luis Buñuel

A fascinating departure in Luis Buñuel’s oeuvre, The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe was the surrealist’s first American-funded film, his first film in color, and the only film that he completed entirely in English. Dan O’Herlihy, Oscar-nominated for the role (eventually losing out to Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront), stars as the titular Crusoe, who finds himself deserted on an island along with only a cat and a dog. Those anticipating the fanciful delusions familiar of Buñuel’s work might find themselves disappointed, however early on there is a remarkable hallucination sequence in which Crusoe glimpses his ever-disapproving father. The specter washes a pig while speaking to Crusoe in a sing-song cadence, and Buñuel’s editors, Carlos Savage and Alberto E. Valenzuela, cut to shots of the father drowning in the sea and a parched Crusoe on a beach in the midst of it. Buñuel’s pictures were not typified merely by their aesthetic values, however, and where it fits into his canon is in the film’s heavy Christian symbology and in the complex moral attitudes that it addresses through the use of a reformed cannibal that Crusoe takes into his custody. For Code-era Hollywood, there is a surprising scene in which Friday, the savage, poses Crusoe logical inquires about the nature of God to which he has no reply. Beyond these pleasures, it’s a well-paced and beautifully-filmed adaptation – filled with golden and green hues by cinematographer Alex Phillips – that successfully brings Daniel Defoe’s novel to the screen without compromising either the source material or Buñuel’s sensibilities as a storyteller.

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