Our most cinephilic francophiles head to the 2016 Melbourne French Film Festival. These are their reviews.
We continue our Melbourne French Film Festival Review Series with our editor, Gemma, and her review of Arnaud Desplechin’s 2015 film Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse.
Cinema is powerful. It has the ability to inspire, amuse, attack, surprise, seduce. Cinema can engage us on many levels, but perhaps the most powerful effect cinema can have on us as viewers is to transport. Transport us to a different place, a different time, a different world. French cinema can make us feel, but it can also make us think, about others, about ourselves, about the past, about the passage of time.
Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse, or My Golden Days, is one of those whimsical films that not only transports us physically, to the tiny Northern French city of Roubaix, on the Belgian border, as well as Paris, but temporally, to the 1970s and 1980s. As the nomadic anthropologist Paul Dédalus plans to leave Tajikistan and return to France after many years of absence, his return home sparks a series of recollections. These are not simple flashbacks: as viewers, we are plunged into three “memories” of Paul’s youth, and immersed in the world he inhabited as a child, a teenager and a young man. Paul’s life is characterised by missed connections, departures and arrivals, visits and interludes, doubles and imitations. In both his flashbacks to the past and his present-day journey home, Paul attempts to fill the void of things lost, seeking replacements for missing people and trying to get at the truth of who he really is.
Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse is a personal film, its intimacy heightened by Irina Lubtchansky’s whimsical cinematography, which experiments with split screens and framing in playful ways. Close-ups and iris shots give us the impression of looking through a keyhole into a room, looking as a viewer into a character’s memories.
Cinema has the power to transport, and Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse is a masterful example. The film carries its viewers into the past, recreating the 1980s without feeling kitsch or flashy. Through its performances, structure, and camerawork, My Golden Days doesn’t simply tell us a story- it immerses us in memories. We journey with Paul not only back to his country of birth, but back into his past. And this past, be it childhood tragedy, Cold War drama or coming-of-age romance, is brought to life for us by the film’s emotive style. This look back to Paul’s youth, this return to his “golden days”, is not a static reminiscence, but a vibrant, moving one.
This post first appeared on the blog of the international film production company, NMNC Films, and is drawn from Gemma’s lecture “Youth, Memory and European Journeys in Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse”, from the Alliance Française French Film Festival, 14 March 2016 at Kino Cinemas Melbourne.
By Gemma King.
Catch Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse at the festival here.