L' AGE D' OR
Spain, 1930, 61 minutes, Black and white.
Directed by Luis Bunuel.
Bunuel had already made his celebrated avant-garde short film, with Salvador Dali, Un Chien Andalou. This provocative film challenged the censors and the public.
An early sound presentation of bishops is found in Luis Bunuel’s avant-garde, L’ Age d’Or, co-written with Salvador Dali. Two lovers declare an attack on bourgeois French society; they are central but the film has all kinds of different episodes. A critique of contemporary society, including the Catholic Church, it culminates with a provocative tale:
The final vignette is an allusion to the Marquis de Sade's novel 120 Days of Sodom; the intertitle reads: 120 Days of Depraved Acts, about an orgy in a castle, wherein the surviving orgiasts are ready to emerge to the light of mainstream society. From the castle door emerges the bearded and berobed Duc de Blangis (a character from de Sade’s novel) who greatly resembles Jesus, the Christ, who comforts a young woman who has run out from the castle, before he takes her back inside. Afterwards, a woman’s scream is heard, and only the Duc re-emerges; and he is beardless. The concluding image is a crucifix festooned with the scalps of women; to the accompaniment of jovial music, the scalps sway in the wind. (Wikipedia comment.)
Buñuel's own synopsis of the clerical section of the film, written in French, in 1930:
Scorpions live in the rocks. Having climbed atop one of these rocks, a bandit sights a group of archbishops, who sing while seated in the mineral landscape. The bandit hurries to announce to his friends the presence of the archbishops. When he gets to his hut, he finds his companions in a strange state of weakness and depression.
They take up their weapons and leave, with the exception of the youngest, who cannot even get up. They set out among the rocks, but one after the other they fall to the ground, unable to go on. Then the leader of the bandits collapses without hope. From where he lies, he hears the sea and sees the archbishops, who are now reduced to skeletons scattered among the stones.
An enormous marine convoy comes ashore at this steep and desolate spot. The convoy consists of priests, soldiers, nuns, ministers, and sundry civil servants. All head toward the place where the remains of the archbishops lie.
Bunuel continued his critique of the Church for many decades.