El gran calavera (The Great Madcap). 1949. Directed by Luis Buñuel. Screenplay by Janet Alcoriza, Luis Alcoriza, from a play by Adolfo Torrado. With Fernando Soler, Rosario Granados, Andres Soler. In Spanish; English subtitles. 35mm. 92 min.
Buñuel’s second Mexican film (following the unsuccessful Gran Casino) was a hugely popular comedy starring Fernando Soler, Mexico’s beloved, befuddled everyman, as a wealthy businessman who has lost interest in life after the death of his wife. To shake him out of an alcohol-fueled depression, a doctor enlists the help of his predatory family to convince him that he’s lost all his money and must start over again as a craftsman in a carpenter’s shop. Buñuel is still lying low here, hoping to establish his own new reputation as a reliable artisan of the cinema. But the old Marxist in him takes evident pleasure at the spectacle of Soler’s predatory family forced to cosplay as urban peasants. Complications ensue when Soler’s beautiful daughter falls in love with a handsome tradesman and he discovers that the family’s poverty is only a pose. This was the first of Buñuel’s 11 collaborations with the Spanish screenwriter Luis Alcoriza who, like the director, was a refugee from the Spanish Civil War.