A poignant love story, Arnaud Desplechin’s (“Jimmy P.”) My Golden Days (Trois souvenirs de ma Jeunesse) is filled with warmth and humor and delivered with a lively and playful touch in the Desplechin style: the use of voice-overs, split screens, the iris-effect, and characters looking and speaking directly into the camera. Challenging us with numerous classical allusions including references to 18th Century French painting and Greek mythology, the film’s dialogue is witty and literate and can be regarded as the modern equivalent of Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” a nostalgic look at the haunting depths of past memories.
The film is separated into three sections depicting fifty year-old Paul Daedalus (Mathieu Amalric, “Bird People”) reflecting on his unhappy childhood, talking about his adventures in Russia as a teenager, and dissecting the intricacies of his off-again, on-again relationship with his first love Esther.
In the first part, anthropologist professor Paul Daedalus (Amalric), returning to Paris after many years of working in Tajikstan, is detained by a customs official (Andre Dussollier, “High Society”) and questioned about the authenticity of his passport. Shown in flashback, he talks about his childhood and the time when, at age eleven, he threatens his seriously disturbed mother Jeanne (Cécile Garcia-Fogel, “Regular Lovers”) with a knife if she will not leave him alone.
After running away from home and parting with his sister Delphine (Lily Taeib, “Quantum Love”) and brother Ivan (Raphael Cohen), he moves in with his loving great-aunt (Francoise Lebrun while we discover that his mother took her own life, leaving Paul’s father Abel (Olivier Rabourdin, “Taken 2”) depressed and unable to take care of his children. Under further questioning to explain why there is another Paul Daedulus living in Australia who was born on the same day and year, Paul relates the story of his high school trip to Minsk when he was an idealistic 16-year-old.
At that time, he and his friend Marc (Elyot Milshtein) agree to smuggle money and passports to Russian Jews denied permission to emigrate by Soviet authorities. Events are presented as an amateur spy thriller and a well-planned dash from the tour group leads the boys to a surreptitious meeting with the “Refuseniks.” After offering his passport to one of the men, Paul gives himself a black eye to provide an alibi to the authorities that he was mugged and his passport stolen, an explanation the Customs official seems to accept.
In the final section, Paul, now 19, develops a relationship with his sister’s friend, the 17-year-old Esther (Roy-Lecollinet), a coquettish and attractive blond who has the kind of presence that can dominate a room. She is mature beyond her years and very aware of the effect she has on men (and does not care what others may think of her). Even though she shows her independence by keeping Paul at arms length with other boyfriends, they have a very special chemistry that keeps them together. Paul divides his time between Paris and his family home in Roubaix, putting a strain on his relationship with Esther.
My Golden Days (French title: Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse; also titled My Golden Years) is a 2015 French drama film directed by Arnaud Desplechin. It is a prequel to the 1996 film My Sex Life… or How I Got into an Argument. It was screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where it won the SACD Prize.
My Golden Days
Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
Starring: Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Mathieu Amalric, Dinara Drukarova, Cécile Garcia-Fogel, Olivier Rabourdin, Irina Vavilova
Screenplay by: Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr
Production Design by: Toma Baqueni
Cinematography by: Irina Lubtchansky
Film Editing by: Laurence Briaud
et Decoration by: Sebastien Delbarre
Music by; Grégoire Hetzel, Mike Kourtzer
Studio: Le Pacte
Release Date: March 18, 2/16