“The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz”, hero with the sad face of Luis Buñuel


Archibaldo de la Cruz (Ernesto Alonso) and Carlota Cervantes (Ariadna Welter) in “The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz” (1955), by Luis Buñuel.

Released in theaters last April, now on DVD, this gongorically titled film reveals, or at the very least recalls, another masterpiece from the Mexican period by Spaniard Louis Buñuel, after the theatrical release of El (1953) early November. Made two years later, The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz appears as a variation of the previous one in the mode of dark farce. Even dark obsessive and degenerate fop of the local upper middle class promoted hero of the story. Same sumptuous residence erected as a fortress. The same mental alienation which substitutes for an objective vision of reality the fantasies of a man who has a severe account to settle with the representatives of the opposite sex. Francisco Galvan de Montemayor, hero of El, tortured his young wife, seduced at the foot of the altar, by his morbid jealousy. Archibald de la Cruz goes further, dreaming of murdering all those he meets without any other form of trial.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Cover: with “El”, Luis Buñuel paints the portrait of a paranoid of the worst kind

Buñuel, as a playful Arnarcho-Freudian guide, gives us from the outset the genesis of this bloodthirsty obsession. As a little boy, Archibald loved his mother so much that one evening, when she had to accompany his father to the theater, he strongly expressed his displeasure. To calm him down, the mother gave him a music box and entrusted the governess with telling the child the story ” magical “ of this object.

The latter therefore decreed that a king, to whom a genie had entrusted him, mentally disposed of it to kill his wife one day in anger, which the boy, a kind of very unsympathetic little gummy, interpreted as a practical virtue of the object. Running said box, then fixing his governess with an intense gaze, he saw her receive a bullet that killed her – this one had moved closer to the window while outside the wealthy family home rumbled a revolution. and that the mother, furious at not being able to entertain herself in due time, wished that all the rebels would soon be hanged.

sad face hero

From this cheerful base mixing Oedipus complex and class struggle, we jump with the author a few decades and find Archibald in adulthood who, still not having realized that his governess had not died of his doing , continues to exploit the supposed properties of the box on any passing woman, gourgandine or girl of good family. The fun of the film is then due to the fact that all his attempts – from the sharp razor to the crematory oven – actually turn out to be fruitless, and that if by chance two or three women actually die crossing him, there is no is never for nothing. Did Buñuel know Vil Coyote, whom Chuck Jones launched in pursuit of Bip bip in 1949? More surely he tasted Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

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