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L’'Age d’'Or Review

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A man and a woman compulsively get together despite the forces of society, indulging in apparently perverse acts of love.

★★★★★

Two years after their seminal short, Un Chien Andalou, director Luis Buñuel and painter Salvador Dali reteamed to make a talking feature, then quarreled, leaving Buñuel to make up most of the film on his own, delivering not just shocking surrealism but a sustained series of extreme images and outright blasphemies.

Buñuel’s wry, black wit – even the cast list provokes sinister chuckles (best-ever character description, ‘Defenestrated Bishop’) – which couches the most outrageous assault on bourgeois sensibilities in an elegant, devilishly charming manner. It begins with found footage of scorpions attacking rats and each other from a 1912 documentary (with the perfectly surreal title, Le Scorpion Languedocien), then shows human scorpions, with churchmen who are as bad as bandits.

It’s a celebration of revolutionary love in an imperial Rome which looks like modern Paris, with a couple who roll in the mud (or worse), are separated by dour cops, chomp enthusiastically on each other’s fingers, get diverted from necking to suck the toes of a marble statue and make declarations like ‘oh, what joy in having killed our children!’. A government minister makes a telephone call to the hero, who doesn’t care about a breaking scandal; the minister shoots himself, and his corpse lies on the ceiling.

The most conceptually violent business is saved for an epilogue which offers a scene from the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days in the City of Sodom as doddering aristocrats stagger away from an orgy of sexual violence – led by Sade’s Duc de Blangis (Lionel Salem), who is here the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus stabs to death a wounded girl, and the scalps of the degenerates’ victims hang from a cross. There were organised riots in the cinemas.

Bunuel's surreal talkie is irreverant and witty and also art.

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