Robinson Crusoe

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Robinson Crusoe at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 21, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)
Genre: Adventure Drama
Director: Luis Buñuel
Starring: Dan O'Herlihy, Jaime Fernández, Felipe de Alva, Chel López, José Chávez
Rated: NR

Luis Buñuel’s Robinson Crusoe (1954) may be the most shocking film ever made by the great filmmaker—precisely because it isn’t shocking at all. Those coming to the movie expecting to encounter Buñuel’s usual brand of surrealism will invariably be shocked to find instead a fairly straightforward version of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel. There is a dream sequence that is at the very least a little peculiar, but overall what Buñuel offers up is pretty much, well, Robinson Crusoe—almost as if he wanted to prove that he could make a normal movie if it suited him. It certainly suited the Mexican film industry folks, who gave it several awards, and for that matter won star Dan O’Herlihy an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Crusoe.

This isn’t to say that the film is without its subversive side. Buñuel’s take on the story is often grounded in a moral ambiguity concerning the nature, and indeed, the existence of God. (This is, after all, Buñuel we’re talking about.) The surprising thing about this is that Buñuel stops shy of mocking Crusoe’s religious beliefs, but in so doing forces the audience to examine their own beliefs on the topic. In the end, it’s hardly a major Buñuel work, but it’s equally not one to be casually dismissed.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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2 thoughts on “Robinson Crusoe

  1. Brian

    You only gave this four stars? This is one of my favorites. That dream sequence… brilliant. It’s also got a neat production history. It was basically seen as a cheap B-movie before it was released. Bunuel refused to work for more than $20,000 on a film in those days. But then Life magazine published full-sized stills from the film over four pages in one of its issues. These gorgeous photos drew much needed publicity. It kind of grew from there, and O’Herlihy was eventually nominated for an Oscar. The film really is a beautiful wonder to look at.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Oh, the film is indeed great to look at, and the dream sequence is certainly striking, but the film overall doesn’t seem to me to merit more than four stars, especially in the greater scheme of Bunuel’s films.

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