Un Chien Andalou (1929) / L’Age d’Or (1930)
It’s time for some experimental film with Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí. The staple of art school courses the world over. I can’t remember the first time I saw Un Chien Andalou, a young teenager perhaps, but I remember being shocked. That eyeball scene sticks with you and of course being immortalised by my beloved Pixies didn’t hurt either. Apparently it was constructed around a load of weird dreams from both creators. This explains quite a lot, but it’s still bonkers. Yes it’s packed with the surrealist fantasies you’d expect, but there’s a surprising amount of structure to it too, housing comedy and tragedy, along with the grotesque and not forgetting a little smut. Does it have any thread, any meaning, any purpose? Well no, maybe and probably. It’s indulgent artistic expression and some people will like it because they think they’re supposed too. I like parts of it, but not all. I like films with substance and arguably this is the opposite of that. Nearly 100 years old though, it still displays a lot of imagination.
Whilst I’ve seen Un Chien Andalou countless times, L’Age d’Or has until now passed me by. Initially devised as a sequel to Un Chien Andalou. This is much more Buñuel than Dalí. At an hour long, it’s possibly a harder sell, but there is a narrative thread. A fairly thin and loose one, but it’s there. A group of weary wretched men, dressed in rags, dwelling in a decrepit barn. Take up arms in a mountainous wilderness. It’s not clear who they’re fighting against. Maybe the random priestly dudes chanting on the rocks. Or maybe the large crowd of toffs that arrive by boat. Anyway it’s probably not important. Who the hell knows. We never see them again and this is still steeped in surrealist swagger, not known for its love of religion or authority. A bloke walks around Rome with a rock on his head. Another kicks a violin down the street. At the heart though is a love story of sorts. One of forbidden love, but again it’s pretty out there. He gets arrested and dragged around town in a dirty suit. She finds a cow in her bed. Then everyone heads off to a party hosted by a bloke with flies crawling over his face as two pissed up blokes trudge through the stately mansion with a horse and cart. A kid gets shot for playing silly buggers and the kitchen catches fire, it’s not your average party. It does though allow our couple some time together, at least it would if he didn’t slap an old lady for spilling a proffered drink on him. True love... or lust can’t be extinguished so easy though and the star crossed pair slip away from the crowd to shove hands in each other’s mouths and role around in gravel. These films are more in love with the medium and experimenting with technique than anything else. L’Age d’Or suffers for it I think, despite having some striking scenes. It doesn’t hold your attention like Un Chien Andalou, but it’s still worth watching and I’ll forgive nonsense if it makes me feel something.