My local library continues to surprise me with its DVD holdings, as witness this, which I chanced upon the other day while casually looking through the DVD racks. I think this makes the third time I’ve seen this, the first having been at Cinematheque and the second having been at the Art Gallery of NSW… and possibly because this is the first time I’ve seen it “up close” at home, a couple of things really struck me: 1) the fact that most of the film was obviously shot silent and dubbed later (which seems like such an obvious technical necessity for a film like this right at the dawn of sound; although the Vicomte de Noailles did commission it as a sound film, I don’t suppose he would go as far as stumping up for full sync-sound), and 2) the music. It really is… inappropriate, isn’t it (the Tristan prelude seems especially so somehow)? Which I”m sure was part of the strategy, though; if Bunuel was going to have a go at the bourgeoisie, why not bring the music they love into it as well? It was particularly instructive to watch this again after that third Forbidden Hollywood box; for all that people tout the virtues of pre-Code American cinema, how many of those films would’ve countenanced child killing, statue toe sucking, clerical defenestration and, of course, the 120 Days of Sodom ending even before the Code was enforced? Eight decades after the fact, the reasons for the riot it provoked aren’t hard to discern. And yet the most perverse thing about the film—which, again, I somehow never really noticed those two times on the big screen—is the warmth of the story of our two lovers around whom most of the film revolves; after their forcible separation early on, there’s something kind of sweet about the way they come back together again. Maybe that was in spite of Bunuel’s intentions (cos the love doesn’t exactly last), but I thought it was there even so.
L’age d’or (1930)