Made two years after his surrealistic Le Chien Andalou, director Luis Bunuel’s second effort created such a furor when first shown in Paris [on Oct. 28, 1930] that, after a stormy run, it was finally banned by the French government. Bunuel’s film was offensive to both society and church. Establishment teamed up to ‘eradicate’ this impudent upstart.
Although Salvador Dali is co-credited with the screenplay, there’s little evidence of his contribution to the film beyond the occasional surrealistic treatment of an incident or a visual image indicative of his pictorial style.
Bunuel’s anger at society, particularly its attitude on morality, seems not only dated today, but laugh provoking. [Review is of a 1964 screening at Lincoln Center, NY, first showing of pic in the US.] The behavior of his libidinous hero and heroine, played by Gaston Modot and Lya Lys in a style straight out of A Fool There Was, wouldn’t cause raised eyebrows today at a Flatbush cocktail party.
As antique as his comments on morality now seem, those he makes against religion are still marked by violence, blasphemy and vilification. This Jesuit-educated Spaniard uses for closing a sequence based on an excerpt from the writings of Marquis de Sade. It’s a particularly brutal comment with a Jesus Christ-like figure staggering out of a sin castle.
There are some intentional moments of humor, some so broad that they were obviously influenced by the earlier American slapstick films. Others, while subtler, are also effective.