The Movie: L'Age d'Or ( The Golden Age ) at Grand Illusion Cinema
The Dinner: Sandwich and soup at Starlife on the Oasis Cafe
The Screenplate: "This is what happens when people on opiates try to make shit," my friend whispered after 15 minutes of absorbing this avant-garde 1930s film. At this point, the audience of six, scattered throughout the Grand Illusion's old, cozy theater, had seen toilets flush, an imprisoned man roll around in what seemed like mud or feces, and a bereft woman masturbate on a couch. And somehow, even the former two became sexual.
Maybe that's a harsh assessment, because it's not clear if Luis Buñuel actually was smokin' the o. But his surreal French film--all 63 minutes of it--certainly left us six audience members scratching our heads.
Perhaps, though, the film is bizarre because Buñuel was dealing with his own issues. He had originally collaborated on the film with surrealist master Salvador Dalí. That is, until a failing out--Dalí apparently refused to loan Buñuel some dough--tarnished their relationship permanently.
The result, though, is a film that screams of sexual repression and is a reference to Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, a tale of men who essentially love orgies--and sex. And like 120 Days of Sodom, L'Age d'Or also has bouts of shocking, sexual violence that'll leave your mind reeling like the old film itself. In fact, the film sparked a riot and was banned--it was first shown in the United States in 1979.
The actual plot is convoluted, spliced by a series of vignettes. In the beginning, a couple caught making love is separated when they disrupt a creepy, nationalistic ceremony that reeks of religious overtones--a thinly veiled jab at the Roman Catholic Church?--and, not surprisingly, spends the rest of the film trying to reunite.
And then, like disappointing sex, the film barely climaxes: When the couple finally reunites after a surprising amount of violence and longing, their lovemaking is represented as uncomfortable at best.
Starlife on the Oasis Cafe proves to be a much simpler and more real experience, although it does well to continue the aged, quirky personality of L'Age d'Or.
The cafe is simple and offbeat, and might even tap into Buñuel's surrealism. It's furnished with vibrant gems like the chipped bird-bath fountain that houses bathroom keys and the plastic light-up goose that sits atop the fireplace.
But the similarities between Starlife on the Oasis and L'Age d'Or stop there. The cafe is cozy and comfortable. It's like sitting in some whimsical, indecisive person's home--not like being in a creepy, orgy-loving dude's basement apartment.
My soup and sandwich combination ($7.80) was exactly what someone who had just seen a heady film like L'Age d'Or would want: to-the-point and hearty. The sandwich, toasted and full of turkey, cheese, and lettuce, was basic and filling, but nothing your mom couldn't have packed you for lunch. The homemade vegan black-bean soup was delightful, though, with a gentle kick of spice and a generous splay of softened carrots and squash. Also at the table was a giant, tomato-filled balsamic-dressed salad, peppered with black olives and an impressive fan of cucumbers.
But probably the biggest difference between Starlife and L'Age d'Or is the climax. Dessert at Starlife, which is admittedly more of a cozy coffee shop appropriate for snacking and studying rather than serious dining, comes in the form of delectable, rich banana-and-chocolate crepes ($3.65).
If you're looking for an experience with a rewarding climax that won't leave your mind stumped, hang out at Starlife for an afternoon. And maybe skip watching L'Age d'Or next door.