L’Age d’Or (The Golden Age): Bunuel’s Scandalous Essay about Eros and Civilization

(The Golden Age)

The great director Luis Bunuel notes quite revealingly in his autobiography, My Last Breath: “Our sexual desire has to be seen as the product of centuries of repressive and emasculating Catholicism. It is always colored by the sweet secret sense of sin….”

This is not only a key statement to all of his rich and rewarding ensuing work, but goes right to the center and raison d’etre of the scandalous silent black-and-white masterpiece, “L’Age d’Or” (“The Golden Age”), a scabrous essay of Eros and Civilization before Freud’s psychological writing became popular.

The tale unfolds as a surreal, dreamlike, deliberately pornographic and blasphemous work. It was written by Bunuel and the painter Salvador Dali, who had collaborated two years earlier with Bunuel on another seminal film, “Un Chien Andalou”
(“An Andalusian Dog”)

A couple is constantly interrupted and torn apart from passionate and furious lovemaking in public by various societal forces: The police, hypocritical members of high society, above all the Church. Some critics have labeled “L’Age d’Or” as the most anti-religious, most anti-bourgeois of all of Bunuel’s films.

For a short film-essay (only 63 minutes), there are numerous shocking images, such as the celebrated toe sucking. The film was made before the revolutionary avant-garde lost its sense of humor, and surrealism fell prey to advertising agency chic.

Credits

In French
Running time: 63 minutes
Produced by the Vicomte de Noailles
Director: Bunuel
Screenplay: Bunuel, Salvador Dali

Cast

Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Max Ernst, Pierre Prevert, Jacques Brunius