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Archive for October 2nd, 2012

L'Age d'or

by Sachin Gandhi

Luis Buñuel’s surrealist L’Age D’or is packed with hilarious and unique cinematic moments that at first glance don’t seem to have a unifying thread between them. It appears difficult to find a framework that can fit a scorpion, a group of villagers or shepherds preparing for battle, the arrival of the Majorcans, a couple trying to make love, Imperial Rome, a bourgeois party, a cow on a bed, a horse carriage going through a party, a man shooting a boy, a bloody eye, a woman sucking the toe of a statue, a giraffe tossed out of a window, the aftermath of 120 days of orgies and scalps hanging from a crucifix! But if one looks beyond the silent black and white images, a few underlying common ideas emerge along with a linear love story; a love that cannot be freely consummated because society and religion get in the way. Using the couple as a focal point in this film, Luis Buñuel casts a smart eye to observe human behavior and society as a whole.

The love story involving the Man (played by Gaston Modot), a goodwill delegate, and the aristocrat woman (Lya Lys) is not shown on screen until the 15th minute mark as the film smoothly builds up events leading to the couple’s appearance. The film begins with a newsreel segment on the characteristics of a scorpion and shows how the tiny creature is able to subdue a much larger rat because of its pincers, lightening quick strikes and the presence of a poisonous bag on its tail. This opening scene plays out like a David vs. Goliath scenario with a tiny creature defeating a much larger opponent and effortlessly flows into the scene of a tiny group of villagers preparing for a battle against the powerful Majorcans. When the group of villagers learn that the Majorcans have landed, their leader signals them to battle with a “Quick to arms!” cry but we amusingly observe that the group can barely make it across the room. So it is not a surprise to discover the crew perish even before they face their enemy; basically losing even before the battle begins. This humorous scene crushes any romantic notions of a smaller-sized protagonist defeating a larger opponent as the scorpion scene may have established. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1995-1998 1,378m) not on DVD

Aka. People’s Century: 1900-1999

We had huge hopes…

p  Peter Magnamenta, Zvi Dor-Ner, Jonathan Lewis, Bill Treharne Jones  d  Jonathan Lewis, Archie Baron, Angus MacQueen  w  Jonathan Lewis  ph/ed  various  m  Zbigniew Preisner  tit  Iain MacDonald, Alan Jeapes

narrated by Sean Barrett, Veronika Hyks

When the BBC announced this flagship documentary’s impending broadcast, the best part of a decade in the making, one would be forgiven for thinking we were quite literally witnessing TV history.  It would take in all the major events and points of interest in the twentieth century, from the euphoria of 1900 to the calamity of 1914 to the rise of the Red Flag in 1917 to the failed peace of 1919-1933, taking in the rise in popularity of the cinema and of sports on both sides of the Atlantic, the rise of the ‘Master Race’ in 1933, the great depression, the Cold War, the post-war American baby boom, and so on right up to the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the inevitable look ahead while looking back.

In that first episode, we meet Alexander Briansky, born in 1882, probably nearer 110 than 100 when filming, talking of how people saw out the final moments of the 19th century.  “We had huge hopes”, he said.  And why would they not, without our benefit of hindsight.  Sean Barrett’s narration spoke for our fears; “in the 20th century some of the hopes were dashed and many were realised.  For millions there were spiralling danger, cruel abuse, but political power shifted.  New freedoms were won and millions lived longer, healthier and more prosperous lives than they expected.”  As Barrett went on, People’s Century was about “the story of those turbulent changes told by the people themselves.” (more…)

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