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A NOTE ON THE AFFAIR OF THE SURREALIST FILM L'AGE D'OR

Cunard, Nancy & Louis Aragon. Cloud, Y[vonne]. (Pseud. Nancy Cunard & Louis Aragon)

(London?). (Hours Press?). 1931
An excellent example of this very scarce English Surrealist tract on Buñuel and Dalì's film 'L'Age d'Or' likely written by Nancy Cunard and Louis Aragon and printed at Cunard's own Hours Press.

This scarce English-language tract, likely printed shortly before the first showing of 'L'Age 'Or' in England in January 1931, opens with 'Exposition of the Facts', which details the initial reception of the film in France, analyses the scandal it caused and outlines the resulting outcry, political and religious, and its final effects. The second, untitled section of the tract assesses the film itself, quotes from 'Le Figaro' and refers in detail to its content and delineates its meaning. Written under a pseudonym, 'Y. Cloud' (the 1937 book 'The Basque Children in England: An Account of their Life at North Stoneham Camp' has the same pseudonymous author), it is thought that it was the work of Nancy Cunard and Louis Aragon.

'L'Age d'Or', the 63 minute, 1931 film, directed by Luis Buñuel, written by Buñuel and Salvador Dalì (also with credit to the Marquis de Sade) and produced by Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles is a Surrealist masterpiece and scathing satire of bourgeois morality, an attack on the hypocrisy of Catholic mores and an emotive lament for the demented nature of modern life. As the text indicates, the film had passed the censor and was shown from November 28th to Decembebr 2nd, 1930, without remark, but on the following day events took a different turn and the performance was interrupted by the League of Patriots and the Anti-Semitic League shouting, throwing ink at the screen, dispersing the audience with smoke- and stink-bombs and blackjacks and destroying works (some were also stolen) by Dalí, Ernst, Miró, Man Ray et al. in the adjacent exhibition hall. Over the next few days the film was censored, denounced in the press, ordered to be censored again, derided as anti-French, of German and Bolshevik origin, produced by 'refuse' and was finally banned on December 11th. The cinema where the film was shown was raided and all copies were apparently seized. As the pamphlet makes clear however: ' ... by an unpardonable oversight, the Paris police failed to seize all the copies extant' and the film was shown in London on January 2nd, 1931 at a screening organised by Cunard herself in Wardour Street.

'One of the copies that survived was smuggled over to London by Aragon ... According to Crowder [Henry Crowder] (who disapproved of the film, which he described as 'extremely sexy and very anti-religious'), from the time the row broke in Paris Nancy had been obsessed with the idea of showing it in London ... She arranged a screening for January at a Wardour Street cinema and sent invitations not only to all her friends but also to everyone whom she considered ought to be on the side of the avant-garde and against censorship. She also printed a synopsis of the film, an account of the campaign waged against it in Paris, and a statement about its serious intentions and artistic importance ... '. (Anne Chisholm).

'It is not possible to give a synopsis, in the orderly Hollywood sense of the term, of 'L'AGE D'OR', but we may to this extent follow the example of our guilt-ridden French colleagues of the Press ... and give a selection of incidents from the film (whose own aesthetic form is based on a significant selection and rejection, wherein sequence means emotional sequence, cause and effect being transposed into the key of event and symbol: more in the likeness, we may say, of the realities we are occasionally able to recognise within ourselves than of those phantasies with which the Church, the State, the Law, the Police, the Yellow Press, the Station Bookstall and the Paramount screen seek to scarify or distract attention away from the reality of their own corruption.) ... The theme which runs with exquisite purity through L'AGE D'OR is the 'behavious' of a human being who pursues the erotic ideal in face of the debased humanitarian and patriotic standards of so-called objective reality.' (From the text).

OCLC lists a single copy of this tract, that at Yale in the US; COPAC details no further examples.

[see José Pierre's 'Tracts surréalistes et déclarations collectives &c.' I, pg. 449; see Anne Chisholm's 'Nancy Cunard', London, 1979].
[Single bifolium: two leaves]. 4to. (254 x 202 mm). Drophead title, section title 'Exposition of the Facts' and printed text recto and verso on thick wove paper, signature Y. Cloud at foot of text; central horizontal fold and trace of paperclip to verso of second leaf. Loose as issued.
#48373

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