From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The film was financed to the tune of a million francs by the nobleman Vicomte Charles de Noailles, who beginning in 1928 commissioned a film every year for the birthday of his wife Marie-Laure de Noailles. When it was first released, there was a storm of protest. The film premiered at Studio 28 in Paris on November 29 1930 after receiving its permit from the Board of Censors. In order to get the permit, Buñuel had to present the film to the Board as the dream of a madman.
On 3 December 1930, a group of incensed members, of the fascist League of Patriots threw ink at the screen, assaulted members of the audience, and destroyed art work by Dalí, Joan Miró, Man Ray, Yves Tanguy and others on display in the lobby. On 10 December, the Paris Prefect of Police, Jean Chiappe, arranged to have the film banned after the Board of Censors reviewed the film. The film did not have its official US premiere until 1-15 November 1979 at the Roxie Cinema in San Francisco.
The film consists of a series of tightly interlinked vignettes, the most sustained of which details the story of a man and a woman who are passionately in love. Their attempts to consummate their passion are constantly thwarted, by their families, by the Church and bourgeois society in general. In one notable scene, the young girl passionately fellates the toe of a religious statue.
In the final vignette, the place card narration tells of an orgy of 120 days of depraved acts (probably a reference to the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom) and tells us that the survivors of the orgy are ready to emerge. From the door of a castle emerges the Duc de Blangis, who strongly resembles Christ, with his long robes and beard. When a young girl runs out of the castle, the Duc comforts the girl, before taking her back into the castle. A scream is heard. The film suddenly cuts to its final image, with the scalps of the women flapping in the wind on poles, accompanied by jovial music. This scene is alluded to in the opening sequence, which resembles a short science film about a scorpion. The narrator tells us that the Scorpion has five prismatic articulations, culminating in a sting. Pauline Kael described L'Âge d'Or as "Surreal, dreamlike, and deliberately, pornographically blasphemous."
- Gaston Modot as The Man
- Lya Lys as the Young Girl
- Caridad de Laberdesque as a Chambermaid and Little Girl
- Max Ernst as the Leader of men in cottage
- Josep Llorens Artigas (Governor)
- Lionel Salem as Duke of Blangis
- Germaine Noizet as Marquise
- Duchange as Conductor
The film's illustrations were created by Luis Ortiz Rosales.