My Golden Days: An odyssey of the past
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2015: Arnaud Desplechin plunges into the heart of the masks of memory by mixing up cinematographic codes in a deliberately elusive film
"Kid, where are you now?" After changing direction from psychoanalytic and sophisticated film towards the New World with Jimmy P. [+see also:
interview: Arnaud Desplechin
film profile], Arnaud Desplechin simultaneously returns to autobiographical sources and summarises his style with his new piece My Golden Days [+see also:
film profile], which is being screened in the Directors’ Fortnight of the 68th Cannes Film Festival. Revisiting the character of Paul Dédalus, who he created in 1996 in My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument, played by Mathieu Amalric (in his 6th film working with the director, embodying a sort of alter ego of his), Desplechin brings together a vast cortege of memories, influences and intentions in a very ambitious work which plays out around the realistic dreamlike reconstruction and playful exploration of genres against a backdrop of emotional wounds. It is a patchwork piece, woven in the same way as we remember dreams, sometimes chaotic, often foggy, but always bearing a message from the subconscious, a land which Desplechin loves to traverse, just like Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey or Edgar Allan Poe’s Arthur Gordon Pym in his adventures (two references among many others used by the filmmaker for his film).
"Roubaix is my curse". Returning to France after twenty years or so of travelling the world to work as an anthropologist, Paul (Amalric) remembers his childhood (in the first part of the film) growing up in the north of France. A dark period marked by his running away from home, the death of his much-hated mother, playing cowboys and indians with his brother and sister, and strained relations with his father ("He would hit me and I would feel nothing"). Then a curious event brings one particular episode from his teenage years, a trip to Russia, racing to the surface. Why? The French secret service discovers, upon his return to France, that there is another Paul Dédalus, a double who died two years previously in Australia in possession of authentic identity papers of our anthropologist. A flashback offers some clarity: during a school trip to the USSR young Paul (played by Quentin Dolmaire) accepted, as a gesture of friendship, to help a Russian Jew escape the country. This exhumation of the past continues with a third chapter, named Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollin), after the great love of Dédalus’ teenage years, with whom he was in a romantic relationship (with the obvious pain and secrets that go with it) for some years, complicated by Paul leaving for Paris to study anthropology. A protean storyline with multiple entry points written by the director and Julie Peyr, which has the feeling of a season revisited as if to try and make out what is left.
A family drama, a fanciful coming-of-age story, a spy thriller and above all a love story, My Golden Days develops as a mystery, borrowing from the codes of different genre films. An attack on utopia by life, disguises with masks ripped off, Arnaud Desplechin crushes the ghosts of the past by splitting them into two, his main character always being there and elsewhere, roaming the universe and trying to find his way, his personality, balance… A rich reinterpretation that the filmmaker strews with magnificent shots, in which he brings the best out of his young actors, nonetheless without trying too hard to give an overly formal structure to the flood of memories, giving the film an elusive charm, like an eternal quest in the strangeness of life.
(Translated from French)