L’Age d’Or (1930)

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*. Scorpions. And you think of the opening of The Wild Bunch. Man is a rat to man.
*. There’s also a convention of comparing the segmented body of the scorpion to the structure of the film, with the poisonous tip at the end. I think this is a stretch.
*. It’s just footage culled from a nature documentary. Found poetry? Not really. More like found anti-poetry.

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*. Should we envy Buñuel’s generation for having cultural institutions and values that were so easy to shock and offend? Or should we feel happy that we live in a time when the old stultifying forms and hypocrisies have all broken down? Or at least seem to have broken down. We have our own hypocrisies now, of course.
*. Apparently the removal of the monstrance from the limousine caused outrage among some audiences. Today I think there will be few in the audience who even know what it is, much less take offence at how it is treated. Times change.

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*. A shift from Un Chien Andalou. This film is more political, broader in scope, and has a greater interest in society than in individual states of consciousness. It also permits a thread of narrative where the earlier film was just a series of unrelated visions.
*. For an assault on the bourgeoisie it had odd origins. Basically it was born of the popular success of Un Chien Andalou (a movie intended to alienate audiences), and funded by a wealthy aristocrat as a birthday present to his wife. They subsequently pulled it from circulation.
*. And just what about this movie is communist, or bolshevik? It’s anti-everything, without any clear political message aside from breaking down the current order.
*. For such an early sound film the use of sound is quite inventive and experimental. Buñuel seemed to feel under no constraint to provide a “realistic” soundtrack, and was quite playful with the score, the dialogue that continues even when no one is speaking, and noises like the cow bell and the barking dogs that are used almost musically.

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*. The structure is that of Old Comedy, the young couple who have to get together despite all the maddening interventions and obstacles set in their way by an overly formal and old-fashioned society. The music from Tristan und Isolde is ironic.
*. Yes, I’m put in mind of The Wild Bunch and Rules of the Game. But it mostly made me think of Monty Python, and in particular The Meaning of Life (Gaston Modot even looks a bit like John Cleese). What I’m mainly thinking of is Bunuel’s penchant for sending up the tyranny of appearances and formalities. The point is that no matter how shocking things gets (a cow in your bed, a groundskeeper shooting his son, your host with flies all over his face) you can never show shock, or indeed any reaction at all.

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*. Only it’s not really imperturbability that is being satirised so much as indifference. People no longer have the capacity to be moved by tragedy or absurdity. They are only interested in themselves (the woman’s mirror reflecting the heavens). Instead of feeling outrage we look away. There is no empathy for tragedy. This was very much a Modernist concern. A lack of affect is often seen as something they cultivated or pursued, but I think it was something that really disturbed them. They were trying to sound an alarm.

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