This Surrealist masterpiece opens with documentary footage of scorpions doing battle, followed by a series of events staged on a seacoast, including the interruption of partisans by a procession of chanting clerics and the arrival of a group of dignitaries in formal dress, intent on founding the Roman Empire. This last ceremony is brought to a scandalized halt by the appearance of a pair of passionate (and quite vocal) lovers writhing in the mud nearby. The film continues in this spirit for an hour, employing the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Debussy, and Wagner as a kind of connective tissue for, and aural commentary on, the unnerving visuals. In the end, the lovers are doomed to frustration, as institutions of authority (the clergy, army, police, and bourgeois society) impede their attempts at consummation. L'Age d'or provoked riots when it premiered in Paris in December of 1930, and within two weeks of its opening it was banned by French authorities for its blasphemy and subversive worldview.
Publication excerpt from Steven Higgins, Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 151