A surrealist tale of a man and a woman passionately in love with one another, but their attempts to consummate that passion are constantly thwarted by their families, the Church, and bourgeois society.
A surrealistic documentary portrait of the region of Las Hurdes, a remote region of Spain where civilisation has barely developed, showing how the local peasants try to survive without even the most basic utilities and skills.
This surrealist film consists of a series of only vaguely related episodes, most famously the dinner party scene in which people sit on lavatories round a dinner table, occasionally ... See full summary »
Bunuel's first feature has more of a plot than Un Chien Andalou (1929), but it's still a pure Surrealist film, so this is only a vague outline. A man and a woman are passionately in love with one another, but their attempts to consummate that passion are constantly thwarted, by their families, the Church and bourgeois society. Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
An invitation for discussion; a surrealist delight
I've always felt that it was somewhat unfortunate that the concept of a cinema presented as art has been largely abandoned in the last sixty years or so in favour of a cinema of wanton commodity. The idea that a film is little more than a consumer product intended to offer passive entertainment that won't require any kind of further thought or challenges for the viewer is incredibly sad, and inevitably leads to the endless regurgitation of codes, conventions, stories and images that we're currently seeing through the endless production of re-makes, literary adaptations and variations on TV. I suppose it depends largely on how you view the notion of "art" in an entertainment sense. I'd gather that very few of the people posting negative comments here would gladly spend the afternoon in an art gallery, not simply learning something about the artist and their work, but actually enjoying it. Many think of art as something incredibly serious; there to be admired from a distance without ever attempting to form a personal connection or engagement with it on an emotional or intellectual level. It is this attitude that leads to the various implications of the term "art film", which now has a number of incredibly negative connotations that suggest something po-faced and pretentious; the idea that these films should be sat through and looked at with no real appreciation for the sense of fun, frivolity and subversive glee that the filmmakers bring to their work or the ideas behind it.
As one of the previous reviewer already noted, it was not Buñuel's intention for this film to be looked at as something entirely serious; though there are certainly serious ideas being expressed. Instead, you could approach it as something radical, like rock n' roll or punk music, with the idea of a cinema of revolution and defiance that goes against all accepted conventions of what cinema is and what cinema should attain to; as well as commenting on the nature of society - with all its bourgeois values and the (then) prevalent idea of religious hypocrisy - in a way that would inspire thought and provoke a reaction. You might not enjoy it as much as a more conventional film that offers a plot and a theme and characters you can believe in - and all presented in a way that is comfortable and safe - but the experience, for me at least, is as a hundred times more rewarding than the latest Marvel adaptation or exercise in Hollywood nostalgia. Look at the current films at the top of the US box-office and it becomes clear that films like L'Âge d'Or (1930) and the proceeding Un Chien Andalou (1929) have become part of the minority. Nonetheless, when we view this film within the context of something like Kung-Fu Panda (2008), You Don't Mess With Zohan (2008), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Sex and the City (2008) - all currently top of the American box office - we can see the extent of how facile and meaningless much of contemporary cinema has become.
It has never been my belief that a film requires a story or a character that we attach our own thoughts and feelings to, but rather, can survive simply as a platform for creative thought and artistic expression. The true power of cinema is in the sense that it is the only real art form that combines elements from every single separate art-form that you can possibly think of; from performance art, to photography, editing and design and of course, the various literary traditions that gave us the ideas of narrative and character. So, with L'Âge d'Or, we are presented with a mad jumble of images all flowing dreamlike from one scene to the next - sometimes boring, sometimes fascinating - often without interpretation or any kind of greater context outside of the broader notions of surrealism for the sake of it. It's still seen as something radical - perhaps even dangerous - seventy-odd years after it was first released, but really, its classic cinema in the traditional sense; e.g. a collection of abstract but penetrating images intended to be viewed by as many people as possible at the same time to create a shared and sensory experience. In this sense, the film is almost beyond criticism, or at least, beyond the higher intellectual/interpretative level of criticism that it normally receives, with the film standing as an ode to cinema at its most simple and sublime. All notions of intellectualism, or pseudo-intellectualism, are therefore thrown out of the window as the film transfixes us with some stunningly imaginative images that flicker to life on the screen.
To seek answers from the film is missing the point, as there are no questions to be asked. The point of the film is not to entertain on the base levels of character, narrative and simple human emotions, but rather, to present us with something that we've never seen before. It's artist expression. If you have no interest in this then you'll have no interest in the film - which, although incredibly difficult and almost certainly not to all tastes, is still as close to the purest sense of cinema as you can possibly get. Some of the images are intended to shock, others to amuse and others to titillate and provoke thought, even when there seems to be nothing to really think about. Above all else, it is an experience, like all films, and one that is entirely visual and approachable on even the most immediate of levels. Don't think too much about it, or attempt to see something that isn't there. The point of surrealism was to go beyond such notions of the real and mundane to present something illogical, imaginative and devoid of rational thinking in order to find a new way of approaching the world. That's what this film represents.
14 of 17 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?