The Young One (La Joven)
Directed by Luis Buñuel
Written by Hugo Butler and Luis Buñuel from the story “Travellin’ Man by Peter Matthieson
First viewing/Netflix Rental
One of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This is a good movie about race relations in the United States. Since Buñuel was at the helm, it also contains heaping helpings of sexual hanky panky.
The jazz musician Traver (Bernie Hamilton) lands on an island in his boat. He is escaping the groundless charge of raping a White woman in town on the mainland.
The island is a hunting reserve with two cabins on it. One belongs to the game warden Miller (Zachary Scott). Since her grandfather died, the other is occupied by Evvie. Miller begins by basically treating Evvie like his servant. Unfortunately for her, he notices that she has blossomed into young womanhood and his attitude radically changes.
While Miller is on a brief trip in town, Traver and Evvie strike up a rapport. She gives him Miller’s food, a rifle and ammunition. When he accidentally shoots a hole in his boat, she gives him supplies to repair it.
Miller returns and spends much of his time thereafter hunting for Traver and seducing Evvie. When Miller finally catches up to Traver, they too strike up a tentative understanding. Then a minister and a redneck arrive. The redneck is ready to kill Traver on sight. The minister believes in his innocence. The minister’s main agenda, however, is to protect Evvie from her abuser.
This English-language film at first did not seem to me like classic Buñuel. Upon further reflection, the black humor and perverse sexuality are characteristic. For one thing, we get shot after shot of legs and feet. The race relations part is refreshingly complex. Miller is deeper than your average bigot and eventually recognizes the many things the men have in common. The sex part is pretty cringe-worthy but also complex. We are left wondering whether Evvie is a woman or a child and even about the future of the “relationship”. It makes one feel slightly dirty.