that name of his, you would expect Paul Dédalus, he must be a Joycian figure.
He most certainly had a difficult childhood and if you have seen his first
appearance in My Sex Life, or . . . How I
Got Into an Argument, you know he definitely appreciates women. Dédalus
takes stock of his life as well as the great love of his life in Arnaud
Desplechin’s My Golden Days (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is about to transfer from his diplomatic post in Tajikistan to a cushy job back
home in the French Foreign Ministry. Unfortunately, he will have to leave a
perfectly good lover. It will not be his first affair to have a bittersweet
ending, but it still has him feeling sentimental. As Dédalus returns to a more
conventional life, he revisits memories of his formative years. His trip down
memory lane very intentionally evokes the vibe of Truffaut’s Antione Doinel
films, but Dédalus’s extremes were even more extreme.
Dédalus and his siblings grew up terrorized by their mentally ill mother Jeanne
and neglected by their emotionally distant father, Abel. Dédalus was the one of
always stood up to the unbalanced woman, but one day he reached his breaking
point and ran off to live with his beloved great aunt and her understanding
lesbian lover. As a teen, Dédalus is still a protective figure to his siblings,
but he also develops an interest in politics and girls. By far, the best
sequences in the film chronicle Dédalus’s school trip to Minsk, where he has
secretly arranged to smuggle money and supplies to Jewish Refuseniks. However,
the rather noble episode will have unexpected consequences years later, as the
audience shall learn in due time.
preponderance of the film in some way addresses his complicated relationship
with Esther, beginning in their school days and continuing rather awkwardly
into his early professional adulthood years. She was pretty in high school and
she knew it, but somehow Dédalus managed to charm her with his combination
chutzpah and self-deprecating humor. For a while, they seem truly happy
together. However, it slowly starts to unravel when his advanced studies force
them into a long-distance relationship in the pre-skype era. Yet, it is Esther
who becomes the needy, desperately clingy one, compulsively writing Dédalus at
least one letter each day.
all seems sadly inevitable, but Dédalus will have the final word on the matter
when he chances into an old acquaintance in the film’s brilliant capstone scene
that just might become emblematic of the careers of Desplechin and his frequent
leading man, Mathieu Almaric.
Golden Days is a film rife with telling
exchanges, but its inconsistency makes it more of a masterwork than the
masterpiece some have suggested. Frankly, there is more teen angst than you
will find in an entire season of the CW television network. Yet, amidst all the
high school stuff, Desplechin springs quietly powerful moments on viewers, as
when Abel Dédalus suddenly decides to act like a father and tries to console his
returning to a familiar role, Mathieu Almaric is wonderfully unpredictable as
the world-weary Dédalus. He can be cavalier one minute and burst into an
eruption of nervous energy seconds later. However, the sad-eyed Quentin
Dolmaire and the pouty Lou Roy-Lecollinet carry the dramatic load, developing relatively convincing chemistry as the young
and naïve Dédalus and Esther, respectively. It seems like every French film
released this year features André Dussolier, but that is not such a bad policy.
True to form, he is rather elegantly sinister in his brief appearance as an
intelligence service interrogator.
terms of form, Golden Days is a
Proustian memory play, but aesthetically, it is a big, rangy film that
practically throws in the proverbial kitchen sink. It has its excesses and its
pacing issues, but when it works, it devastates. Overall, it is a potently
nostalgic film that amply rewards viewers who wrestle with it. Recommended for
patrons of French cinema, My Golden Days opens
this Friday (3/18) in New York, at the IFC Center downtown and the Elinor Bunin
Munroe Film Center uptown.
Labels: Arnaud Desplechin, French Cinema, Mathieu Almaric