Cinema poster for L’Âge d’or
|Directed by||Luis Buñuel|
|Produced by||Vicomte Charles de Noailles
Marie-Laure de Noailles
|Written by||Luis Buñuel
Caridad de Laberdesque
Josep Llorens Artigas
|Music by||Luis Buñuel
Georges van Parys
|Editing by||Luis Buñuel|
|Distributed by||Corinth Films (1979 U.S. release)|
|Release dates||29 November 1930|
|Running time||63 minutes|
|Budget||1 million francs|
L’Age d’or (French pronunciation: [lɑʒ dɔʁ]), The Golden Age (1930) is a French surrealist comedy directed by Luis Buñuel about the insanities of modern life, the hypocrisy of the sexual mores of bourgeois society and the value system of the Roman Catholic Church. The screenplay is by Salvador Dalí and Buñuel. L'Age d'Or was one of the first sound films made in France, along with Prix de Beauté and Under the Roofs of Paris.
In a series of thematically-linked vignettes, a couple's attempts at a fulfilling and consummating their romantic relationship are continually thwarted by the bourgeois values and sexual mores of family, church, and society. In the course of seeking sexual release and satisfaction, the woman sublimates her sexual passion by fellating the toe of a religious statue.
The final vignette is an allusion to the Marquis de Sade's novel 120 Days of Sodom; the intertitle reads: 120 Days of Depraved Acts, about an orgy in a castle, wherein the surviving orgiasts are ready to emerge to the light of mainstream society. From the castle door emerges the bearded and berobed Duc de Blangis (a character from de Sade’s novel) who greatly resembles Jesus, the Christ, who comforts a young woman who has run out from the castle, before he takes her back inside. Afterwards, a woman’s scream is heard, and only the Duc re-emerges; and he is beardless. The concluding image is a crucifix festooned with the scalps of women; to the accompaniment of jovial music, the scalps sway in the wind.
- Gaston Modot as The Man
- Lya Lys as the Young Girl
- Caridad de Laberdesque as a Chambermaid and Little Girl
- Max Ernst as the Leader of men in cottage
- Josep Llorens Artigas as Governor
- Lionel Salem as Duke of Blangis
- Germaine Noizet as Marquise
- Duchange as Conductor
- Valentine Penrose as a Spirit
L’Âge d’or began as the second artistic collaboration between Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, who had fallen out by the time of the film’s production. A neophyte cinéast, Buñuel overcame his ignorance of cinematic production technique by sequentially filming most of the screenplay; the 63-minute movie is composed of almost every meter of film exposed and dramatic sequence photographed.
The production budget was a million francs, and was financed and produced by the Vicomte Charles de Noailles (1891–1981), a nobleman who, beginning in 1928, yearly commissioned a film as a birthday gift to his wife, the Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles (1902–1970), who was a renowned patroness of the arts and of artists, such as Dalí and Buñuel, Balthus, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Francis Poulenc, Jean Hugo, Jean-Michel Frank et alii.
Upon receiving a cinematic exhibition permit from the Board of Censors, L’Âge d’or had its premiere presentation at Studio 28, Paris, on 29 November 1930. Later, on 3 December 1930, the great popular success of the film provoked attacks by the right-wing Ligue des Patriotes (League of Patriots), whose angry viewers took umbrage at the story told by Buñuel and Dalí. The reactionary French Patriots interrupted the screening by throwing ink at the cinema screen and assaulting viewers who opposed them; they then went to the lobby and destroyed art works by Dalí, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy, and others. On 10 December 1930, the Prefect of Police of Paris, Jean Chiappe, arranged to have the film banned from further public exhibition after the Board of Censors re-reviewed the film.
A contemporary right-wing Spanish newspaper published a condemnation of the film and of Buñuel and Dalí, which described the content of the film as “...the most repulsive corruption of our age ... the new poison which Judaism, Masonry, and rabid, revolutionary sectarianism want to use in order to corrupt the people”. In response, the de Noailles family withdrew L’Âge d’or from commercial distribution and public exhibition for more than forty years; nonetheless, three years later, in 1933, the film was privately exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City. Forty-nine years later, from 1-15 November 1979, the film had its legal U.S. premiere at the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco.
The film critic Robert Short said that the scalp-decorated crucifix and the scenes of socially repressive violence, wherein the love-struck protagonist is manhandled by two men, indicate that the social and psychological repression of the libido and of romantic passion and emotion, by the sexual mores of bourgeois society and by the value system of the Roman Catholic Church, breed violence in the relations among people, and violence by men against women. The opening sequence of the film alludes to that interpretation, by Dalí and Buñuel, with an excerpt from a natural science film about the scorpion, which is a predatory arthropod whose tail is composed of five prismatic articulations that culminate in a stinger with which it injects venom into the prey. Film critic Ado Kyrou said that the five vignettes of the tale of L'Âge d'Or (1930) correspond to the five sections of the tail of the scorpion.
- Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia Third Edition (1987) p. 140
- L’Âge d’or entry in the Movie Diva website.
- Morris, C. B. This Loving Darkness: The Cinema and Spanish Writers 1920–1936 (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 1980), pp. 28–9.
- L’Âge d’or commentary by Robert Short, published by British Film Institute (BFI)