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Kino on Video presents
L'Age d'or (1930)

"Here's a taste of the rough stuff."
- member of an angry, seething mob

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 01, 2004

Director: Luis Buņuel

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:02m:31s
Release Date: November 23, 2004
UPC: 738329038823
Genre: foreign

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

When you look at what's considered "dangerous" cinema these days, it's hard not to think that movies have lost their power to shock. What, really, outrages audiences these days? Garden variety porn in The Brown Bunny seems tiresome, and the sexuality in a movie like Showgirls is laughable. Violence? Even when it's sort of mainstream, in, say, American Psycho, it's just kind of gross. Politics? Well, Fahrenheit 9/11 has as many detractors as supporters, but this isn't really an aesthetic disagreement, even if you take Michael Moore to task for his technique.

It's hard, then, to fathom the level of outrage that accompanied the premiere of L'Age d'or, the second collaboration (after Un chien andalou) between director Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalì (who collaborated with the director on the screenplay), which in its time was denounced by the Roman Catholic Church and a couple of governments and caused rioting in movie theaters, for being pornographic, or offensive, or just unthinkable. That sort of outrage seems almost quaint now, but looking at the film, it's easy to see what caused all the stir: the filmmakers were provocateurs, so not only did they make art at a very high level, they knew just how to get a rise out of the high and mighty, and to expose the hypocrisies of those who are shocked, shocked by something as common as sex.

This isn't a movie about its story, which is principally about two young lovers being kept from one another, for fear of extramarital fornication. Rather, it's almost an attempt to get everything verboten onto the screen, and in just over an hour: not just sex, but toilets! One of the themes of the picture is the inherent societal hypocrisy about sex and violence—we're shocked by the former, and blithely tolerate the latter. It's a movie in which young lovers are nearly pulled limb from limb, but we witness without comment such arbitrary acts as the kicking over of a blind man for no reason, or the shooting of a young boy, simply for target practice. Even the sex is more suggested than portrayed—arguably the most pornographic thing in the movie is a scene of a woman who, shortly after her man leaves, sucks greedily at the toes of a nearby statue.

"Surrealism" is obviously the operative word here, and this is a weird, hallucinogenic fever dream of a movie, one in which you'll find, tucked under the covers of an ordinary bourgeois bedroom, a cow. The wealthy come in for particular abuse—their parties are images of decadence, and when the revolution comes, with them is not where you want to be. Academics have spent no short amount of time on the undergirding structure of the movie (see notes on the commentary track, below), but L'Age d'or shouldn't be reduced to merely a schematic exercise; and all these decades later, it will probably still give you something of a jolt. 

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: This transfer is a very shoddy one—the print is close to ghastly, with lots of evidence of bacterial decay and acid burn, and Kino hasn't helped the cause any by doing what looks like a simple dump job onto DVD. If museum curators treated Dalì canvases so carelessly, they'd probably be looking for work.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Though there's a smattering of dialogue, this is close to being a silent movie, and a very good thing, too, because the audio transfer is loaded with all kinds of hiss. You'll do just as well watching this one if you turn the volume all the way down.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Robert Short
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. stills gallery
Extras Review: Film historian Robert Short sits for a commentary track, and he's got close to nothing to say; lots and lots of silence on this track. He chimes in occasionally, offering lots of compare and contrast with Un chien andalou, and on the reception of this movie; he condescendingly tells us that the relationship between Dalì and Buñuel is too complicated to explain on this track, so he doesn't even try, and instead says nothing at all for half an hour. Thanks for the effort, Bob.

You'll also find a complete filmography for the director, and a gallery of a dozen images from the film.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

One of the crucial texts in the evolution of Surrealism, L'Age d'or remains a deeply strange movie, brimming with outrage, courting blasphemy. The transfer and the extras fall pretty far short of what one might hope for, but the artistry and provocation of Buñuel and Dalì have lost little if any of their luster.


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