L' Âge d'or (1930)

Banned for decades, Buñuel’s feature debut is a gleefully inventive, wickedly funny and still profoundly disturbing Surrealist assault on every social and moral convention imaginable.
“They call Buñuel everything: traitor, anarchist, pervert, defamer, iconoclast. But lunatic they do not call him. It is true, it is lunacy he portrays, but it is not his lunacy: this is the lunacy of civilization, the record of man’s achievement after ten thousand years of refinement.” Henry Miller, 1939 Few directors managed the one-two punch of Luis Buñuel’s first film Un Chien Andalou (1929) and his debut feature L’Âge d’or (1930). If there’s nothing in the latter as immediately, viscerally shocking as the slit eyeball that opens the former, it more than compensates in the way it lays out the preoccupations that would occupy Buñuel for the rest of his career. (Salvador Dalí is credited as co-writer, but had little to do with its production.) These include his abiding hatred of the church and the middle classes, an unmatched eye for an incongruously compelling image, and a fervent belief in the transformational power of human sexuality. The film’s plot revolves around Lya Lys and Gaston Modot’s increasingly desperate attempts to consummate their passion for each other in a succession of wildly inappropriate settings: when he’s summoned to the phone, she relieves her frustration on the well-sculpted toe of a garden statue. Contemporary Surrealist films include Man Ray’s L’étoile de mer (1928), Germaine Dulac’s La Coquille et le clergyman (1929) and Jean Cocteau’s Le Sang d’un poète (1932), while Jan Švankmajer maintains the tradition to this day.
1930 France
Directed by
Luis Buñuel
Produced by
Charles De Noailles, Marie-Laure De Noailles
Written by
Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dalí
Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Caridad de Laberdesque
Running time
63 minutes