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.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Something that's becoming more and more clear to me with every movie I watch is the absolute dearth of good, strong female voices in film. I'm probably to blame somewhat; the movies I'm choosing are based partly on my own interests and partly out of curiosity about movies I've read about in various books and magazines and it might be this dearth I sense comes as a result of a male-centric blind spot in the movies I'm choosing.
It's just that I'm really getting sick of this whole virgin/whore thing. And so many of the movies I've watched have extended sequences designed to convey the threat of rape. It's as if the sum total of the movies I've watched posit that there are only 3 women in the world and all of them have penises thrusting at them and the one who can hold out longest from being penetrated is the one everyone wants to marry.
So help me out if you're reading this. Suggestions for movies with strong female voices, preferably ones made by women. It's okay if there's virgin/whore/rape stuff in them, I'd just like some new P.O.V.s