Luis Buñuel

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Henry Miller

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 643

Buñuel is obsessed by the cruelty, ignorance and superstition which prevail among men. He realizes that there is no hope for man anywhere on this earth unless a clean slate be made of it. He appears on the scene at the moment when civilization is at its nadir….

They have called Buñuel everything—traitor, anarchist, pervert, defamer, iconoclast. But lunatic they dare not call him. True, it is lunacy he portrays in his film, but it is not of his making. This stinking chaos which for a brief hour or so is amalgamated under his magic wand, this is the lunacy of man's achievements after ten thousand years of civilization. (p. 55)

Perhaps it is the baroque element in human life, or rather in the life of civilized man, which gives to Buñuel's works the aspect of cruelty and sadism. Isolated cruelty and sadism, for it is the great virtue of Buñuel that he refuses to be enmeshed in the glittering web of logic and idealism which seeks to mask from us the real nature of man…. There is no straddling the issue. Either you are crazy, like the rest of civilized humanity, or you are sane and healthy like Buñuel. And if you are sane and healthy you are an anarchist and you throw bombs. (pp. 57-8)

"L'Age d'Or" is the only film I know of which reveals the possibilities of the cinema! It makes its appeal neither to the intellect nor to the heart; it strikes at the solar plexus. It is like kicking a mad dog in the guts. And though it was a valiant kick in the guts and well aimed it was not enough. (p. 59)

Some people think of the Golden Age as a dream of the past; others think of it as the millennium to come. But the Golden Age is the immanent reality to which all of us, by our daily living, are either contributing or failing to contribute. The world is what we make it each day, or what we fail to make it. If it is lunacy that we have on our hands today, then it is we who are the lunatics. If you accept the fact that it is a crazy world you may perhaps succeed in adapting yourself to it. But those who have a sense of creation are not keen about adapting themselves. We affect one another, whether we wish to or not. Even negatively we affect one another. In writing about Buñuel instead of writing about something else I am aware that I am going to create a certain effect—for most people an unpleasant one, I suspect. But I can no more refrain from writing this way about Buñuel than I can from washing my face tomorrow morning. My past experience of life leads up to this moment and rules it despotically. In asserting the value of Buñuel I am asserting my own values, my own faith in life. (pp. 60-1)

"L'Age d'Or" is no accident, nor is its dismissal from the screen an accident. The world has condemned Luis Buñuel and judged him as unfit. (p. 61)

What I say is only a drop in the bucket, but it may have its consequences. The important thing is that the bucket should not have a hole in it. Well, I believe that such a bucket can be found. I believe that it is just as possible to rally men around a vital reality as it is around the false and the illusory. Luis Buñuel's effect upon me was not lost. And perhaps my words will not be lost either. (p. 62)

Henry Miller, "'The Golden Age'," in his The Cosmological Eye (copyright 1939 by New Directions Publishing Corporation; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation), New Directions, 1939, pp. 47-62.

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