Âge d'or, L' (1930) * Weird & Wacky *

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  • user warning: Can't open file: 'cache.MYI' (errno: 145) query: UPDATE cache SET data = '<p align=\"center\"><img class=\"image preview\" src=\"/guts/files/images/1001.JPG\" border=\"0\" width=\"432\" height=\"112\" /> </p>\n<p align=\"center\"><img class=\"image preview\" src=\"/guts/files/images/Bunuel.JPG\" border=\"0\" alt=\"BUn\" title=\"BUn\" width=\"324\" height=\"470\" /><em><br />Yummy hands make for laughable film</em></p>\n<p><em><strong><font color=\"#3399ff\">Genre:</font></strong></em> <strong>Avant-Garde Short</strong> (France)</p>\n<p><strong><em><font color=\"#3399ff\">Starring: </font></em>Gaston Modot</strong>, <strong>Lya Lys</strong></p>\n<p><em in /guts/includes/database.mysql.inc on line 120.
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BUn
Yummy hands make for laughable film

Genre: Avant-Garde Short (France)

Starring: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys

Directed By: Luis Buñuel (Un Chien Andalou; Belle De Jour)

Overview: A man's individuality struggles against society's crushing tides of class and religious dogmas.

There's the kind of film that deserves the highest of praise, and there's the kind that needs to be strung up and beat like a piñata until its guts give its treasures. I know you enjoy the rage I put into those kinds of reviews... but sadly this movie isn't worth any of these intense emotions.

Surrealism is the sort of game that is played to shake up the brain, sometimes even to disturb it, and Buñuel's L'Âge D'Or is no different. In 1930, this 62-minute film caused such an uproar that a riot broke out, with Dali's paintings suffering slashing retribution, given that he co-wrote this sacrilegious piece of symbolic art that rebelled against class differences and the church's established dictates, most notably marriage and Christ.

L'Âge D'Or is often considered a masterpiece, yet my opinion wavered between "The Emperor's New Clothes" and "sloppy". In honour of the Contrarian Blog-A-Thon, let me take you through the many reasons why this 'masterpiece' is anything but.

Technical Failing: To begin with the most basic argument, any artistic medium, whether it be sculpture, painting or post-modern dance, all falls under the category of 'art', defined as 'the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects'. As I watched the jostling camera movements and atrocious framing, I was reminded of Maya Deren's works and her cinematographer's technical ineptitude, as well as how others considered her works genius. To call a film that ignores basic concepts of capturing an image 'a masterpiece' is simply ridiculous. Defences like '1930's filmmaking was limiting as cameras were mostly immovable objects so loud they had to be put in sound-proof boxes to allow sound-recording to take place' or 'it was Buñuel's first feature' are poor excuses for constantly cut-off heads, shaky camera motion or not capturing the moment in the first place, as was the case with a fight between a rat and a scorpion: the battle took place 3/4 out of frame. There is art without skill, but a masterpiece should be made by masters, those with the technical expertise to allow their imagination unbidden expression.

Talentless: To a lesser extent, those oblivious to the above will most likely note how unskilled the actors are. Granted the main character, The Man, was the best this film had to offer, and the actor who played him went on to have parts in many important films, but everyone else with a speaking role hammered out their lines as though they were reading them out loud for the first time. If a director is good enough to instruct his talent to act like they're reading, then he should be equally good at convincing the audience that this was done on purpose. Buñuel fails to do this, most likely because it was not his intention.

The Film Has Ceased to be Relevant: Most importantly, those who can forgive nit-picky aspects of film such as visuals and acting (?) and allow the surreal message to be the truth may appreciate the relevant context this holds. In 1930, Buñuel and Dali were going against the grain, telling it like it is, raging against class differences and religious dictates. Perhaps they've succeeded, given that everything they fought against has moderated, at least in the western world. People in this day and age certainly don't find it a forbidden taboo to make love without marriage, for example.

And so, for that reason, L'Âge D'Or's message is no longer an important enough statement to warrant this film its status. What timeless classics do for film, this film simply does not. As I watched, I learned and understood what made people mad, rather than getting mad myself. Charlie' Chaplin's City Lights and Lang's Metropolis are far more important films telling of the eternal class struggles that still exist in our world.

My conclusion is therefore that people today who love this film either have forgotten the meaning of the word 'masterpiece', or are so appreciative of surrealism and the waves Buñuel made in his time that they have put blinders on and choose instead to focus in on one single aspect of this film - Surrealism.

Avant-Garde art forms including Surrealism should not ignore its medium. It needs to include and embrace craftsmanship and skill as well as the artistic message, and those who tout the praises of L'Âge D'Or are warranted as it is indeed very forward thinking, but don't sell me this masterpiece crap.

Anyone can buy archive footage of two scorpions fighting and make a movie out of it.

D'or
Don't even get me started on the statue toe sucking, ugh, ick, puh-tooey.

Overall Rating: 52% (Fool's Gold)
Aftertaste:

I'll give them this much, the message is there and occasionally the images are streaked with enjoyable surrealism, as is the case with the cow in the bed, or that moment where The Man and his lover devour each other, and yes indeed this films is definitely vanguard, but there are far more important films from the early talkies and the Silent Era that are far more relevant and enjoyable today.

This post is part of the Contrarianism Blog-A-Thon. For a complete listing, visit Scanners.

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