Thursday, March 3, 2016

THE YOUNG ONE (1960): A Racist Rapes a Nymphet

In Luis Buñuel's The Young One (1960), Traver, an African American musician, fled the city via a stolen boat to a Carolina island after he was falsely accused of rape by a white woman. However, the island was inhabited by Miller, a racist beekeeper, and Evalyn (Key Meersman), an orphaned nymphet.

Initially, Miller attempted to capture Traver and hand him over to the racist authorities; however, Miller had a change of heart after Rev. Fleetwood discovered that Miller seized Evalyn's virginity.

Surprisingly, Evalyn was portrayed as being completely unaware of her sexual appeal even after Miller repeatedly caressed and attempted to kiss her and after Traver warned the thirteen-year-old about her sexual appeal.

Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in his review of the film, which he titled "THE YOUNG ONE: Buñuel’s Neglected Masterpiece", that the film wasn't well received:

"The New Yorker accorded Buñuel’s film a dismissive paragraph, the big Manhattan dailies were hostile, and, according to Buñuel, “A Harlem newspaper even wrote that I should be hung upside down from a lamppost on Fifth Avenue….I made this film with love, but it never had a chance. American morality couldn’t accept it. It hardly did any better in Europe and even today, it’s hardly ever shown.”"

However, despite the film's eroticizing of a nymphet, it was (unsurprisingly) nominated for a Palme d'Or and received a Special Mention at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. 

The Young One (1960) was loosely based on Peter Matthiessen's "Travelin' Man". And interestingly, Key Meersman played the seventeen-year-old wife of a middle-aged man in Arturo's Island (1962) [Italian: L'isola di Arturo].

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