Friday, 13 May 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 135: Monday May 16

L'Age d'Or (Bunuel, 1930): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

If Buñuel did not quite cause the expected scandal with his first film Un chien andalou, his second amply compensated. Financed by the Vicomte de Noailles (who backed Cocteau's Le sang d'un poète in the same year), the film begins with desire frustrated as two lovers are torn apart, and ends with an extended quotation from the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom. The subsequent scandal saw the film - one of the truest examples of the spirit of surrealism - withdrawn from circulation for almost 50 years.

This movie still has the power to shock. I defy anyone not to gasp when the figure emerges from the castle in which an orgy of 120 days of depraved acts has taken place.

Certainly the reaction at the time of its release was one of anger. On 3 December 1930, a group of incensed members of the fascist League of Patriots threw ink at the screen during a screening of the film, assaulted members of the audience, and destroyed art works by Dalí, Miro, Man Ray and others on display in the lobby after which the film was withdrawn.

Here is the Chicago Reader review:

'Luis Buñuel's first and most radical feature (1930) was banned for decades, and it continues to pack a jolt. Forsaking consecutive plot, the film is more like an anarchist bomb, starting off as a documentary before assaulting church, state, and society—particularly high society—in the name of eros. Funny, blasphemous, sexy, strange, subtle, and evocative in its use of sound, it's also thoroughly Buñuelian, though without the bittersweet sense of resigned acceptance that characterizes some of his later works. Except for his 1932 documentary Las Hurdes, this ferocious act of revolt kept Buñuel virtually unemployed as a director for 17 years; when he finally returned as a narrative filmmaker, he delivered something quite different from the wild poetry of his first three films.' In French with subtitles. 60 min.

Here is an extract.

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