Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Day 46: L’Age D’Or

The followup film to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s Un chien andalou, L’Age D’Or is made in the same semi-narrative style, a stream-of-consciousness collage of images and ideas which build sequentially as the movie plays out.  It’s a way of filmmaking that works in a similar fashion to the way poetry works, taking the representations of a language (in poetry it’s words; in film, photographic representation) and putting them to use in novel ways.  

It’s a lot like a piece of music, too, since it is often dealing in purely abstract messages (the film medium’s concrete representational qualities notwithstanding) and in the way it moves from idea to idea in sequential, temporal fashion.  Additionally, as in some pieces of music, there are themes that reoccur throughout (religion and child-murder featuring most prominently in my memory of the film), commenting on one another and, eventually colliding to form a conclusion.  

Since, like music or poetry, everyone who experiences it will come away with a different impression of what it “means”, I think the experiential aspect of seeing this film and the reaction one has while watching it is, in many ways, more important than further reflection.  It’s eminently interpretable, due more to the human being’s almost insatiable desire to connect two dots than to any ostensible meaning in the film’s text or subtext.  This isn’t to detract from the film, though, because there’s a consistency guiding everything and it’s smart enough to know that the real importance in doing an experimental stream-of-consciousness piece like this is an undercurrent of dramatically satisfying “stream-of-emotion.”

And, anyway, it’s this tendency to connect the unconnected that allows us to understand the language of cinema in the first place, to understand that a cut does not necessarily constitute the beginning of a new movie.  What Dalí and Buñuel have done in both movies is to apply this concept of juxtaposition to the literal meaning of their films.  The way ideas and narrative streams flow one from another is, really, no different than the way all movies move from one geographical location to another.  

The movie’s hilarious too.  After being introduced to a city, a title card informs us, “Sometimes on Sundays…” and then the film cuts to shots of buildings collapsing.  A character in the film is prone to such bouts of anger, he slaps an old woman when she spills a drink on him and knocks a blind man down for absolutely no reason (this despite being honored by the National Goodwill Society [or something like that]).  Additionally, before this movie, I never realized how funny it is to see a cow in a bed. (The movie also features what has to be the funniest use of Jesus in a movie, ever, ever, ever.)  All of these absurdities are used to good effect, beyond simply busting the gut of the viewer.  

I could quibble about a few things.  The ending (featuring the Jesus moment) is a little abrupt, like a rude punchline at the end of a great shaggy dog joke.  The images in the film aren’t exactly beautiful with much awkward framing and mediocre camera work (though it’s hard to know how much of this is due to the image quality on the DVD. It seems they could only find a print of the film archived by Scratchy McCactushands).  But I can’t really work up the passion to dwell on the movie’s faults.  What’s great about this film is how much sense it makes within itself.  In polite society, it wouldn’t make sense for a man with a gun to shoot a kid who’s angered him.  Here, because of every single thing that’s preceded this moment, nothing else would.


Redphi5h said...

The 'language' of film seems to mimic the language of dreams. It is wonderful when the associations are sublime. I saw a wonderful film the other day called Who Killed Bambi? which contained so many intuitive, sublime moments which whilst, literally, intellectually, might be said to have constituted cliche, in the moment were hypnotic, intriguing, uncanny, beautiful, startling. I prefer art to provoke an emotional response as opposed to inspiring an intellectual sense-making exercise. Don't you?

David Wester said...

My favorite thing is when I get to have both.

Redphi5h said...

Oh, for sure. If you can have both. I only ever want to think about something, though, if I genuinely find that I want to think about something! Making sense of something never provides me with pleasure that was lacking from the outset. And thinking about something doesn't necessarily provide more pleasure. I was thinking about Boogie Nights a while ago in terms of the Oedipal idea and the myth of Icarus, but it didn't do anything for me.