In the second film that Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí collaborated on, they accomplished the infamous L'Age D'or, and this after they stirred the world of art and politics with their Un Chien Andalou a year before. This second film was about to exercise a full out assault on the established guidelines of society through irrational thoughts leading the audience to question their own ideas of society. However, in order to provide more detail to this notion one should know that surrealism grew out of Dadaism, which was a consequence of war. In the beginning of the 20th century, Tristan Tzara, the father of Dada, expressed himself that a world that can create war machines not worthy of art. Thus, he decided to generate an anti-art of ugliness against the up and coming industrial bourgeoisie, but instead of offending the new upper-class they embraced his new art. They felt that the Dadaism was attacking old traditions of feudalism and Christian dominance.
Surrealism is an expansion of Dadaism that grew out from the notions of the French doctor Andre Breton, who had fought at the trenches of World War I. Breton had studied the works of both Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Through his studies a heavy interest grew with the notion of the unconscious and its functions. Later, Dali developed his own unique technique to capture his unconsciousness onto the permanent medium of the canvas. Buñuel who also was interested in the subconscious did not have the talent of writing, painting, or music, which left him with the new coming art form of cinema. And he truly became one of the masters of cinema, whose films can still provide much pondering and pleasure.
Upon the release of the film the Board of Censors would not have released this film with a screening permit, if it was not for the ingenuity of the artists to call it madman's dream. The film received both appraisal and hatred, as some considered it pornographic and despicable while others found it to be a refreshing touch of reality in the 1930s. It was the bizarre content of the film that raised so much debate, even violence. The pinnacle of controversy came when the League of Patriots, a fascist organization, began to throw purple ink on the screen in the middle of the screening. These fascist thugs continued to vandalize the theater and cut apart artistic pieces by Dali, Man Ray, Joan Miró, and Yves Tanguy. Through several legal issues that came about from L'Age D'or, it was unfortunate that they removed the film from public screenings, and it was not until 1979 that the film received its first legal screening in the United States. Despite the outcome of withdrawing the film, Buñuel and Dalí created a surviving cinematic epitome of cerebral rebellion on societal prejudice bestowed to those who rule.
The film itself offers a peculiarly intriguing journey of the growth of a city, Rome, but in the light of surrealism. The narrative does not follow conventional methods, as it displays notions and concepts through a number of bizarre artistic scenes. The opening of the film displays scorpions while the audience is thoroughly enlightened of its anatomy and how territorial these arachnoids are against same and other spices. Maybe this is a subconscious hint of mankind's way of bordering themselves within countries, companies, and groups. Nonetheless, the scorpion sequence unexpectedly jumps to a scene with some bandits and papal characters, which eventually leads a strange scene with immigrants that claims the ground for the birth of Rome and the Vatican. Within the conquest like society Buñuel creates a society governed by rules of moral conduct and other appointed positions. This society receives an intricate dissection through a love affair between a man (Gaston Modot) and a young woman (Lya Lys) that ventures through scenes with a cow in the bed and toe sucking.
L'Age D'or does not provide any reason with its surreal imagery, yet there is something very familiar in each scene. This familiarity generates a link between the thoughts that the audience experiences. However, the imagery remains disconnected and dreamlike. One cannot help to think that Buñuel found a key to unlock the subconscious within the audience, as he playful juggles images of Christ and Marquis de Sade. There is nothing in the story that connects each scene, but the audience will make the deduction themselves and find a mutual connection from which they will derive the controversial material. This is a step away from Buñuel and Dali's previous film Un Chien Andalou where nothing was supposed to reveal anything in regards to rational thought. In the light of their second film, one should take a couple of steps back and reflect upon the power of the brain and cinema whilst one could feed the brain with thoughtless imagery of cinematic vacuity.