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  Âge d'Or, L' Whatever It Is I'm Against ItBuy this film here.
Year: 1930
Director: Luis Buñuel
Stars: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Caridad Laberdesque, Max Ernst, Josep Llorens Artigas, Lionel Salem, Germaine Noizet, Duchange, Bonaventura Ibáñez
Genre: Weirdo
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: And now, a description of the life of the scorpion. These arachnids have a set of pincers and a tail with a poisonous barb at the end, all the better for defending themselves and attacking their prey. Preferring darkness, they tend to hide from the sun, but when they are roused they can be very aggressive, as we can see here, with a scorpion attacking a rat. Meanwhile, one of the defenders of the land against the Majorcans stumbles across the coastline, rifle in hand, and none too bothered about the bishops praying by the rocky shore. He is making his way to his comrades, and he has serious news...

Or as serious as this film gets, at any rate, which is dubious in itself. That's the thing about surrealism and why it lends its stylings so well to comedy: it can be viewed as utter irreverence, no matter the gravity of the message the creators wish to convey. Our creators here were Luis Buñuel, who also directed, and Salvador Dali, pioneers of the movement which spawned so much controversy at the time, and which observers still have trouble making up their minds about even today. They had already brought the world the groundbreaking short film Un Chien Andalou, but here wished to go further in their endeavours.

Well, it's longer anyway, but essentially it's the same thing, although here the emphasis was perhaps less on crazy imagery than crazy behaviour; depending on your sensibility there was little as shocking as the eyeball slicing in their first film. Nevertheless, if you were respectful of authority, of the church, and of any kind of decency and propriety, there was still something to offend you should you care to be put in that position. Although dreams were the main inspiration for the method, there were moves towards a narrative in this, as after all, dreams have storylines too, no matter how weird they can get, so there was an actual, proper main character who emerged after about ten minutes.

Played by Gaston Modot, a figure who appeared in a few key European films, this included, he doesn't have a name or anything conventional like that, but he is the closest thing we get to a protagonist as he is introduced to us loudly making love to a woman, interrupting a ceremony to pay tribute to those bishops, who have now been reduced to skeletons. He turns up again later on, when we find out more about him, though not so much that he would be developing a personality as this is more symbolic. Symbolic of what? You can of course put your own interpretation on this, but Buñuel was of the opinion his artwork was all about sex and death, with some baiting of the Church thrown in for good measure.

You can see why L'Âge d'Or caused such a fuss in its day, and was banned in so many countries, and also why the Fascists of the time were so outraged by it - they're not the type of people best noted for their tolerance of wildly creative ideas or their sense of humour. But if this is anti-authoritarian, you never get the feeling that it's strident or overbearing, as often it's too deliberately confounding for that, featuring as it does random acts of violence (the result of buttoned up emotions bubbling over, apparently), thwarted passions (the man's girlfriend - Lya Lys - ends up having to suck the toes of a statue and snog her father in lieu of sexual contact with the true object of her desires), and the outright bizarre (the cow on the bed, kicking a violin down the street, throwing a giraffe out of a window, that sort of business). It's more the type of film to watch for its sensational aspects than anything to soberly analyse, although you can do that too, but bafflement is a perfectly reasonable reaction - you'll get the idea after a while.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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