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L’Age d’Or and Un Chien Andalou
The surrealists exalted images derived from dreams and the subconscious, so they should have gotten along just fine with the new art form known as cinema. But only a few movies were made that validate the movement’s early interest in moving pictures. Of those, the most startling may well be Luis Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou (pictured) and L’Age d’Or, both made in collaboration with Salvador Dali (though the extent of Dali’s contribution remains in question). The first of the two, whose title translates as An Andalusian Dog, is a short series of disconnected but compelling nightmare images, including a famous shot in which eyeball meets razor. Released a year later, in 1930, L’Age d’Or ran almost two weeks in a Paris cinema before the furor—including protests by Mussolini’s ambassador to France and a violent attack by young thugs aligned with the Anti-Semitic League—led Paris’ Prefecture of Police to ban it. Although not substantially more plotted than Un Chien Andalou, L’Age d’Or does feature recurring characters, notably a couple whose attempts to make love are repeatedly frustrated by agents of bourgeois society. Among the characters are—don’t tell Mel Gibson—a man who is both Jesus Christ and the protagonist of the Marquis de Sade’s infamous The 120 Days of Sodom. Oddly enough, the film’s patrons were French aristocrats Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, the latter of whom was distantly related to Sade. (And in a bonus aside, the leader of the film’s bandit gang is played by surrealist painter Max Ernst.) The films open Friday, March 19, and screen daily (see Showtimes for a complete schedule) through Thursday, March 25, at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Mark Jenkins)