Nov 4, 2019

L'Age d'Or

A number of years ago, I had a somewhat peculiar experience after getting a blowjob on a large coastal island-cum-park. As my then-girlfriend and I were walking back to her car, a wild Spanish pony appeared out of nowhere on the path and scared the shit out of my lady friend due to the loud noise it made as it galloped by us.  In fact, her fear was so frenetically intense that it initially scared the shit out of me too, as if I had to immediately prepare to take on a homicidal killer with nil notice. Upon getting back to my girlfriend's car, I discovered between twenty and thirty tiny deer ticks crawling up my foot and sock, which were surely the consequence of the partly wooded beachside BJ. Needless to say, when my girlfriend and I finally got home, we administered full-body cavity searches on each other shortly after sharing a long warm shower. While we did not find any ticks, my girlfriend felt something on her head a couple hours later after we were lying in bed together and I soon found myself using tweezers to carefully pull off the parasitic bloodsucker. Naturally, the gf was postively pissed and took her revenge by repeatedly brutally stabbing the less than sentient Ixodidae to death in what was a genuinely sadistic rage that I will never forget.  While everything I said above really happened, I cannot help but think the story is somehow allegorical, at least after recently watching the surrealist masterpiece L'Age d'Or (1930) aka The Golden Age directed by Spanish master auteur Luis Buñuel (The Exterminating Angel, Belle de Jour) and somehow saw it as a depicting something akin to my own failed love affairs. While most people might find the film to be indistinguishable from bad gibberish of the arcanely archaic sort, I somehow found a kindred spirit lurking inside the film, as if I—a proud conservative libertine and born-again post-Yockeyite—found my soul in sync with a nearly ancient film that once caused right-wing riots against commie scum. 

 Indeed, it is hard to imagine liking a film directed by a filmmaker that was then-flirting-with-communism and that was produced by the part-Jewish mischling descendant of the great Marquis de Sade, but a lot has changed in the Occident in the nearly-90-years since the film was first released and even some leftists back then actually had balls (also, while the film’s co-writer Salvador Dalí was literally obsessed with Hitler’s testicles, Buñuel would eventually realize that commies and other related rabble are retarded). Oftentimes feeling like a romance film created by a lovelorn schizophrenic lunatic that dreams of engaging in orgies in hell with the mangled corpse of Pasolini and de Sade in the vain hope that he will finally get over his forsaken perennial lovesickness, L'Age d'Or is unequivocally a rare piece of technically-quite-antiquated celluloid iconoclasm that still has the power to offend and disturb today. A radical piece of gleefully scathing cynical romanticism where the seemingly foredoomed cultural history of the Occident is blamed for the innate impossibility of love conquering all in the spiritually moribund modern age, the film is also anti-Christian in the best sort of way by depicting Christ as a two-faced Sadean killer of hot young nubile girls and, in turn, worshiper of death and female defilement. Indeed, in the film, the protagonist is more or less cockblocked by civilization, which is indubitably one of the most audaciously absurd premises in cinema history and something that makes Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) seem like the patently prosaic expression of a posturing prole philistine, but I digress. 

 Undoubtedly, one of the reasons I loathe leftists, especially leftist activists, so much as the majority of them tend to be self-loathing hypocrites and the nadir of the very bourgeois they loathe (indeed, Judaic background aside, Marx was also a failed bourgeois, not to mention the fact that he never worked a single day in his entire life). While one could accuse Buñuel—a Spaniard from a distinguished background that, as recounted in his memoir, looked down on the poor as a youth—of such glaring hypocrisies, he never really tried to hide his roots and as he eloquently explained in his short-but-sweet memoir My Last Sigh (1982), “Like the señoritos I knew in Madrid, most surrealists came from good families; as in my case, they were bourgeois revolting against the bourgeoisie. But we all felt a certain destructive impulse, a feeling that for me has been even stronger than the creative urge. The idea of burning down a museum, for instance, has always seemed more enticing than opening of a cultural center or the inauguration of a new hospital.” While this might seem like harsh words, especially considering Buñuel, who was initially influenced by Italian Futurists like Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was already fairly old when he wrote them, L'Age d'Or is so intoxicatingly iconoclastic and awe-inspiringly aberrantly absurd in its essence that one cannot help respect the great passion of the auteur, especially since he manages to seamlessly express such savage surrealist sentiments alongside a strangely endearing (ill-fated) love story as the bourgeoisie—and its retarded rules and customs—becomes the ultimate callous murderer of love. Indeed, as Buñuel also wrote in his memoir, “Although Dalí compared it to American films (undoubtedly from a technical point of view), he later wrote that his intentions ‘in writing the screenplay’ were to expose the shameful mechanisms of contemporary society. For me, it was a film about passion, l’amour fou, the irresistible force that thrusts two people together, and about the impossibility of their ever become one.” Speaking of love, Buñuel and Dalí, who previously demonstrated to be great collaborators on Un Chien Andalou (1929), had a major falling out after the former choked the latter’s new whore muse-cum-future-wife Gala, thus the film is mainly the brainchild of its director (according to Buñuel, only one scene, which involves a guy walking around with a rock on his head, was written by Dalí). In fact, even more than his debut film Un Chien Andalou, L'Age d'Or is like a virtual artistic manifesto where Buñuel outlines the themes, obsessions, fetishes, and visuals that would come to dominate his truly singular filmmaking career. In short, it is an imperative (albeit technically formative) work from one of the greatest and most important filmmakers of cinema history. 

 L'Age d'Or begins in a fashion that is considerably less fairytale-like than Un Chien Andalou as it is comprised of primitive vintage orthochromatic footage of scorpions doing evil scorpion things and related creature qualities that are ultimately compared to humans, including toxic aggression, ungodly survival instincts, and tendency towards the most evil forms of treachery against its own species, among other things. Just as the scorpion has “five prismatic joints” and a “sixth vesicular joint,” the film has five main segments and a savagely subversive Sadean concluding segment. As British surrealist scholar Robert L. Short noted in regard to the possible esoteric meaning of this literally quite gritty documentary opening, “The scorpion is the zodiac sign that governs the genitals and the anus. As such, it’s the symbol of sex, excrement, and death. Thus, this opening sequence introduces the ambivalent dynamic that powers our impulses of attraction and repulsion alike and officiates at the alchemical marriage of shit and gold.” Needless to say, L'Age d'Or is a film with an intrinsically ironical title as a tragicomedic romance trapped inside of a purgatorial absurdist cinematic nightmare where nothing goes right and evil, especially of the nasty Nazarene sort, triumphs in the end.   In short, aberrant avant-garde cinematic alchemy where human shit is elevated to artistic gold.

 After the scorpion doc that opens the film, a group of ornamentally dressed Catholic bishops, who certainly look more glamorous than the average meth-addled drag-queen, practically wash up onto some rocks where they soon turn into ornamentally dressed skeletons yet their dubious ‘sacrifice’ seems to be totally triumphant as they leave an indelible mark on the land as demonstrated by the fact that their martyrdom (or whatever) is soon followed by a ‘golden age’ as a large colonial entourage subsequently arrives that includes priests, military men, government whores, etc. and it is soon declared, “Upon this rock I shall build my church.” Naturally, the group of humorless bureaucrats becomes exceedingly angry when a sort of religious ceremony that they're performing is interrupted by the great ecstasy of two lovers (Gaston Modot and Lya Lys) engaged in exceedingly orgasmic mud-wrestling. At this point, the lovers—the film’s main protagonists—are separated for the first time and the rest of the main section of the film involves the man played by Modot’s strange quest to be reunited with his beauteous beloved. As the film eventually reveals via spasmodic flashback, Modot is a special agent of the so-called ‘International Goodwill Society’ and is ostensibly on a “goodwill mission” that, as described by his ‘Minister of Interior,’ is based, ”On your spirit of self-sacrifice and proven valor depend many lives. Children, women, old men. The honor of our Fatherland rests on the outcome of this noble enterprise.”

 Needless to say, lovesick Modot completely ignores his audaciously altruistic mission as he has much more important things to think about than the lives of children, namely being reunited with his lover. Hardly a humanist or lover of animals, Modot is not beneath kicking little dogs like soccer balls, senselessly stomping on beetles, and assaulting blind men, yet one finds it hard to fault such a passionate lover. Suffering from a sort of Freudianism is reverse, immediately visualizes women masturbating when encountering advertising (or as British film theorist Raymond Durgnat described, Modot “‘sees through’ the impersonal, commercialized eroticism of the posters to his anima”). As for Modot’s lover Lys, she has her own problems, including suffering the banality of her bourgeois parents, large cows invading her bed, and a magic mirror with racing clouds that seem to express her lovesick erotic longing. Of course, the two lovers are soon reunited but, like most great romances, the love affair does not last and ultimately concludes on a quite chaotic, if not downright cataclysmic, note that inspires apocalyptic dreams. 

 Using a special certificate that proves his on a certified “goodwill mission” to supposedly save millions of children and elderly people, Modot is able to finally escape from two cops that are senselessly parading him around the absurd decaying civilization “Imperial Rome”—a modern metropolis that looks nice from a bird's-eye view yet is quite brittle and decayed as revealed by the fact that buildings randomly collapse—so that he can make his way back to his lover. While never made totally clear, Modot may have once been a true idealist and humanistic do-gooder like so many naive and/or otherwise idiotic young people, but now he simply has a monomaniacal obsession with lady Lys. After his odious odyssey, Modot eventually makes his way to a large party at Lys’ family chateau where many absurd things occur, including a maid being blasted with a roaring flame and a pesky Mongoloid child being shot after daring to annoy a man while he was rolling a cigarette. Clearly infatuated with Modot and his masculine majesty, Lys can only look on in delight when the hero slaps her mother in the face for the crime of spilling a drop of wine on his rather stylish suit. Plagued by the spiritually moribund etiquette and the callously contrived civility of the ball-less bourgeoisie, Modot finds it seemingly impossible to get to Lys at the party as he is constantly approached by pestering guests attempting to make small talk with him. In what is arguably one of the most shamelessly yet touchingly romantic scenarios in all of cinema history, Modot and Lys’ eyes remain ecstatically glued to one another while being hassled by party guests as if they are the only two people in the entire world, at least in their own minds.  Unfortunately, fate has different plans for the ill-fated lovers and it does not even involve full-on fucking.

 It is only when the party guests begin congregating at a garden in preparation for a sort of makeshift Wagnerian concert that the lovers are able to finally reunite outside with some privacy near a male statue. Rather unfortunately, the reunion is only momentarily happy and very much abstractly resembles the most absurd of botched orgasms. Indeed, not long after the two begin smooching, Modot is forced to take an emergency phone call where he is berated by his boss, who subsequently commits suicide, for causing the deaths of men, women, and especially children due to his negligence.  Undoubtedly, in his eager willingness to sacrifice the lives of millions of innocent children for the sake of a love that isn't even guaranteed, Modot's behavior symbolizes the ugly emotional extremes of romantic obsession. Meanwhile, Lys, who is clearly quite horny, begins fellating the toe of the statue as if she cannot wait to mouth Modot's member. When Modot finally gets off the phone and reunites with Lys after a two minute ordeal that feels like a decade in terms of abject anticipation, the two seem incapable of properly channeling their repressed passion for one another as if their love has become necrotic. For example, Modot hallucinates that Lys is an elderly grey-haired woman and the two become very sleepy. While the couple continues to kiss as if trying to chase a bliss that just doesn't exist, they are soon rudely interrupted by a seemingly demented conductor that walks over to them with his hands gripping head like a neurotic somnambulist on acid, as if his performance of Richard Wagner's “Liebestod”—a splendid piece of music that reveals Buñuel's own monomaniacal tendencies, which are almost always characteristic of all great men, in that he used the same exact work in his previous film Un Chien Andalou—has caused him to suffer a complete mental breakdown. Immediately inexplicably spellbound by the unhinged old fart as if she suffers from serious daddy issues, Lys leaves Modot and then proceeds to embrace and French kiss the cracked conductor with a certain girlish gusto. After his love affair comes to a swift and brutally bizarre end, Modot gets his revenge against his (ex)lover by immediately going to her room where he proceeds to tears up some pillows like a tyrannical toddler and then begins hurling stuff out of the window, including a wooden plough, bishop, bishop's staff, burning Christmas tree, and giraffe statue, among other phallic items that arguably hint at a sort of spiritual castration.  At this point, Modot is probably done with love and ready embrace de Sade.

 While the film’s love affair ends on a rather erratically brutal note where the protagonist suffers soul-crushing defeat in the romance department in the most preposterously pathetic of ways, the quasi-epilogue—a virtual homage to the Marquis de Sade’s posthumously published The 120 Days of Sodom, or the School of Libertinage (1785/1904)—is a sort of allegorical final nail in the coffin of Western Civilization that begins with a long scrolling inter-title that reads: “Just as these feathers fell but a long way away…the survivors from the Château de Selliny…emerged to return to Paris. 120 days earlier, four godless and unprincipled scoundrels had, driven by their depravity, shut themselves away…to indulge in the most bestial of orgies. To them, the life of a woman mattered no more than that of a fly. They took with them eight lovely adolescent girls…to serve as victims for their criminal desires…plus four women well versed in debauchery…whose narrative skills would serve to stimulate…their already jaded appetites…whenever interest flagged.” After the pseudo-moralistic inter-title, a bearded Jesus/Duc de Blangis figure—a character that may or may not be a ‘liberated’ post-love Modot—emerges from an ominous (yet somehow goofy) gothic castle where he is followed by a couple similarly tired and debauched-looking aristocrats. When a wounded young woman, who may or may not be Modot’s ex-lover Lys, emerges from the castle, Jesus takes her back inside and assumedly murders her. In the end, Jesus loses his beard and a couple female scalps are depicted hanging from a large Christian cross as snow falls from a sky in a scenario that arguably allegorically symbolizes the twilight of romance in (post)Christian Western Civilization. 

 While Buñuel bemoaned the tragic character of love and the impossibility of two lovers becoming one, L'Age d'Or is, somewhat ironically, the artistic consequence of the auteur’s one-time collaborator-cum-friend Salvador Dalí finding his great love-cum-muse Gala and thus only playing a minor role in the film. Of course, despite his anarchic spirit, Buñuel was rather bourgeois in his romantic dealings as he courted his future wife, Jeanne Rucar Lefebvre, in a formal Aragonese manner—complete with a chaperone—and stayed together with her for nearly half-a-century for what was the rest of his life after marrying her in 1934. As noted by Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf (1927), the artist is one of the few things that redeems the bourgeoisie and Buñuel was certainly one of the greatest masters of this form of critique, especially in regard to the modern post-religious bourgeoisie. After all, it is no coincidence that the auteur wrote in his memoir, “I’m lucky to have spent my childhood in the Middle Ages, or, as Huysmans described it, that ‘painful and exquisite’ epoch—painful in terms of its material aspects perhaps, but exquisite in its spiritual life. What a contrast to the world of today!” A man of the past that created art of the future, Buñuel was, in the sense described by Uncle Adolf's #1 fan-girl Savitri Devi in her magnum opus The Lightning and the Sun (1958), a ‘Man Against Time’ that ultimately used a destructive aesthetic power for life-affirming purposes, thereupon performing a sort of aesthetic alchemy by turning the shit that is modernity into artistic gold. Considering that L'Age d'Or caused reactionary riots and was banned from public exhibition in late-1930 after the Prefect of Police of Paris arranged to have it banned, one could certainly say that Hesse was right when he wrote that, “The bourgeois today burns as heretics and hangs as criminals those to whom he erects monuments tomorrow.” On the other hand, Buñuel—a man once associated with communist cunts and other degenerates—is now attacked by ‘bobo’ (bourgeois bohemian) leftists—undoubtedly the nadir of the slave-morality-ridden priest types that Nietzsche condemned for destroying Europa—with ad hominem oriented buzzwords like ‘misogynistic,’ ‘xenophobic,’ ‘homophobic,’ and other completely meaningless modern vile, thus confirming that his fears about the future of the Occident were not in vain as things have only gotten ten times worse in terms of their surreal stupidity and inanity. 

Undoubtedly, after recently re-watching L'Age d'Or and doing research on Buñuel, I could not help but reminded of the following excerpt from Steppenwolf: “Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, real hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. A man of the Classical Age who had to live in medieval times would suffocate miserably just as a savage does in the midst of our civilization. Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence. Naturally, everyone does not feel this equally strongly. A nature such as Nietzsche’s had to suffer our present ills more than a generation in advance. What he had to go through alone and misunderstood, thousands suffer today.” When I watch Buñuel’s films, especially L'Age d'Or, I fell as if I am being confronted by the excremental excesses of the Occidental collective unconscious in an eccentrically esoteric form; or, the prophetic cinematic daydreams of a very real future nightmare from a mensch with the keen artistic sensitivity to foresee that which should not be seen, at least by those that still value their sanity. In that sense, it is only fitting that the film was funded by the direct descendant of de Sade who, in all his savagely sadistic degeneracy, still expressed something very real about the ‘liberal’ future to come (as a far-left degenerate aristocratic revolutionary that was an elected delegate to the National Convention during the French Revolution, de Sade also actively created that forsaken future). After all, child drag-queens, the chemical castration of children, sex changes, wiggerism, and fat rights activists are modern phenomenons that are more surreally disturbing and/or absurd than anything that you might find in a Buñuel flick. 

 Recently, I discovered that the ‘great love’ of a childhood friend of mine was recently tragically killed after a police cruiser ran her over. Notably, this girl brought great misery to my friend and everyone around them when they were together (for example, she would sneak into my parent’s home to get to my friend while they both had restraining order against each other), yet I could not help but feel a certain degree of sadness for my old comrade, as if the final lingering sense ecstasy of his l'amour fou had been finally fully extinguished for all of eternity via absurd tragedy. Even today, I cannot help but be reminded of bittersweet memories from a love affair that began nearly a decade ago, or feel an irrevocable sense of loss for a fairly recent all-too-brief romance that happened that—for better or worse—reminded me what l'amour fou feels like. If you want to experience what it feels like to be in heartsick hell and back in a film that somehow manages to unintentionally reconcile the miserably melodic lovelorn lyrical pathos of John Maus and pre-apocalyptic Occidental despair of Oswald Spengler with a certain Dirlewangerian depravity thrown in for good measure, L'Age d'Or is certainly the film to see. As to why the average spiritually neutered bourgeois would find both l'amour fou and a film like Buñuel's quite disagreeable, Hesse summed it up quite well with the words, “The bourgeois treasures nothing more highly than the self.... And so at the cost of intensity he achieves his own preservation and security. His harvest is a quiet mind which he prefers to being possessed by God, as he prefers comfort to pleasure, convenience to liberty, and a pleasant temperature to that deathly inner consuming fire.” 

-Ty E

No comments: