March 21, 2008
Reviewer: Maria Komodore
Rating (out of 5): ****
L' Age D'Or (1930) marks not only Luis Buñuel's feature debut, but also the ill-fated ending of a rather unusual, yet extremely creative, collaboration. Having enjoyed a successful cooperation while making their much talked about short Un Chien Andalou (1928), Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, two of the most well respected surrealist artists of the era, attempted to replicate their experience. Sadly, well before L'Age was completed their friendship was fractured for good.
Supposedly, when the film opened for the first time in Paris it started a riot, which eventually led to it being banned by the French government. Even though L'Age makes little in the way of sense, at least in the linear, plot driven and conventional way that mainstream movies do, one can easily understand why it inspired such strong reactions.
Starting out as a documentary about scorpions, L'Age takes a very different turn almost immediately. Seemingly unrelated images of workers vainly trying to rebel against their oppressors, of catholic priests praying by the sea, and of wealthy capitalists invading an unnamed land (apparently what soon after became Rome), are juxtaposed with the recurring efforts a couple makes to gratify their urgent sexual desires. The church, family, and the rules that society has hypocritically imposed are all presented as being at fault for the young lovers' misery.
Shot in black and white and featuring very little dialogue (Buñuel had yet to master the newly introduced technological breakthrough that was film sound), L'Age has a crude and slightly baroque aesthetic that works really nicely with the outrageously funny symbolism the director employs. Maybe the film doesn't reach the high peaks that Buñuel's subsequent creations Viridiana (1961), Belle de Jour (1967), and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie did, but it sure is a fine introduction to the filmmaker's thematic and stylistic obsessions.
This DVD by Kino International also includes illuminating, if too-short, audio commentary by author/filmmaker Robert Short.
Posted by cphillips at March 21, 2008 6:33 PM