Starring: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Lionel Salem
Director: Luis Buñuel
Running Time: 62 mins
L’Age D’Or is a French film about a man and a woman who try desperately to be together, but are repeatedly frustrated by the taboos of bourgeois society and the church.
Few films are quite as surreal as those by Luis Buñuel, and so proves the case with L’Age D’Or, a film that seems to be a perfectly normal romantic drama at first glance, but is something a whole lot more manic underneath. Shocking and forward even by today’s standards, the film is a unique watch, however far from the most entertaining or intriguing one, with that surrealism spilling over and hurting what could have been a more engaging watch.
Of course, Buñuel’s more outlandish cinema is an acquired taste, and my personal preference leans towards his shorter abstract works, like Un Chien Andalou. Both L’Age D’Or and Un Chien Andalou are striking, controversial and utterly bizarre films, but there is an innate shock value that wears off somewhat over the course of an hour, in comparison to just ten minutes of pure insanity.
L’Age D’Or isn’t quite as abstract or crazed as Un Chien Andalou, but that’s arguably because it’s stretched out over a longer duration, with more of a necessity for a strong narrative than simply being an art exhibition, and that’s where the film falls down for me, in the fact that I just couldn’t engross myself in that narrative alongside the main oddities of the film.
As a result, when it’s not at its highest level of weirdness, L’Age D’Or can be a little bit of a dull watch, something that proves frustrating given the fact that those strangest moments are actually very entertaining, but the rest of the film pales in comparison.
When it comes to the movie’s more bizarre side, what works best is just how far it’s willing to go in terms of provocative and surprisingly still shocking sequences and themes. Its criticism of bourgeois society and the church is clear, and although that’s not something that everyone can relate to nowadays, it does allow for some bizarrely raunchy moments, as the film decides to go all out with its portrayal of a man and woman driven almost entirely by their sexual instincts, to the disgust of those around them.
We often think that everything in the era was cosy and innocent, but that’s something that only really came about after the introduction of the Motion Picture Code in 1934, and its gradual influence over filmmaking around the world, but this film shows the exact opposite, with moments and ideas that would still struggle to make it into any film on general release even today.
Overall, L’Age D’Or is a decidedly strange and unique affair, as you’d expect to see from Luis Buñuel. At its best, it’s a bizzare, provocative and devilishly entertaining watch, but at its worst, it proves a frustrating and often dull piece that doesn’t quite have the intensity of Buñuel’s shorter works, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.6.