A lot of people were upset earlier this year with the ultra-conservative piety offered by Mel Gibson in his The Passion of the Christ: Letters were written, ecumenical and Jewish groups spoke out, journalists interviewed patrons, critics took sides. It constituted a contretemps, I suppose, but if Gibson thinks he was persecuted, I direct him to the historical moment, in 1930, when Luis Buñuel's first feature film L'Âge d'or was loosed on an apparently unprepared Paris. Letters were written then too, but, additionally, the police stormed the theater, patrons endeavored to set it aflame, Surrealist art works in the lobby were destroyed, and the film's producer was threatened with excommunication by the Vatican. Personally, I'd choose the tough questions from Diane Sawyer.

Of course, ultra-conservative piety was never the problem with Buñuel. On the contrary. Today, more than twenty years after his death, he remains cinema's most gleeful blasphemer, and in L'Âge d'or his contempt for the church found its most straightforward representation. Pauline Kael described the picture as "deliberately, pornographically blasphemous," a summation that cannot be improved upon; an example of Buñuel's heresies might include the concluding sequence in which Jesus is written into the same Marquis de Sade material that served as the basis for Pasolini's Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, and there are many more. (The woman for whom the film was commissioned was, incidentally, a direct descendent of the Marquis's.)

Continue reading: L'Âge d'or Review