L'âge d'or (1930)


(director/writer: Luis Bunuel; screenwriter: Salvador Dali; cinematographer: Albert Duverger; editor: Luis Bunuel; music: Luis Bunuel/Georges Van Parys; cast: Gaston Modot (The Man), Lya Lys (The Woman), Lionel Salem (Duke de Blangis), Joseph Llorens Artigas (The Governor), Bonaventura Ibanez (The Marquis), Germaine Noizet (The Marquise), Max Ernst (Leader of men in cottage); Runtime: 63; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Le Vicomte de Noailles; Kino Video; 1930-France-in French with English subtitles)

It relentlessly attacks the mores of society.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Luis Bunuel (“Viridiana”/”That Obscure Object of Desire”/”Nazarin”) directed and co-wrote with his young artist pal Salvador Dali the absurd and baffling screenplay, following their collaboration in their initial film Un Chien Andalou. The experimental pic was financed bythe wealthy Le Vicomte de Noailles and meant as the surrealist movement‘s shocking and subversive commentary on a corrupt technical age. It relentlessly attacks the mores of society, the hypocrisy of the church, sexual kinkiness and the repression of sexual desires in favor of a pious morality. Upon its release it was met with violent crowd reactions, such as an anti-Semite right-wing extremist group pelting the screen with ink and the theater with stink bombs. After riots, the film was banned by the French police and was removed from circulation when the church threatened its aristocrat financier with ex-communication. It wasn’t released again until after the patron’s death, many decades later.

Dali and Bunuel had a falling out over artistic differences and Dali left the film early-on for Bunuel to complete solo. The filmmaker made it more a searing political attack than a work of poetics, as the artist wanted.

Stock footage of scorpions was used. The point was to show the poisonous scorpions as anti-social creatures, who sought to live in darkness under the stones and thereby were prepared to even take on rats with their poison stings and if surrounded by a circle of fire would choose suicide. Following no story line, what follows is surrealist painter Max Ernst leading a rag-tag unit of partisan bandits against attacking Majorcans (corrupt nobility). But there’s no attacking army, instead a tame marching assembly of wealthy Majorcan civilians in street clothes are climbing over the rocks to lay a cornerstone commemorating their skeletal archbishops who are seen mounted on the mountain side. The Majorcans are being studied under a microscope as if they were ants. Then it moves onto two neurotic lovers (Gaston Modot & Lya Lys), he a highly placed government official and she the daughter of a wealthy marquis,unable to get it on throughout the film, as they are constantly interfered with by their bourgeois peers and their social codes and the sexual restrictions of the Church. Out of frustration Lys reacts in an over the top manner at a ministry garden party by performing fellatio on the marble toes of the statue of Venus. Modot takes his sexual frustration out by stomping to death a beetle and kicking a dog. Further bizarre scenes has a gamekeeper cuddle his son and when he misbehaves, he shoots him dead with his rifle.

The film follows Bunuel’s usual theme of having sport with bourgeois societal issues on sex and death, and ripping the Church for being parasites. It’s the kind of pic that has a cow on the bed and then it is kicking a violin down the street, which is not very deep symbolically and open to various comical interpretation.