My Golden Days
Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Paul is preparing to leave Tajikistan, while thinking back on his adolescent years. His childhood, his mother's madness, the parties, the trip to the USSR where he lost his virginity, the friend who betrayed him and the love of his life.
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★★★★½ review by Patrick Devitt on Letterboxd
Fourth viewing; I'm curious if anything is going to dethrone this as my favorite film of 2016. There are very few films like this that I've ever been able to connect to as strongly as My Golden Days. It's this rare work of beauty that feels like Rivette (texturally), Eustache (blocking/presentation of characters), Resnais (mood), and De Oliveira (aesthetically, as his works also have this very painterly background to their images) came together to make one glorious work of art. I truly cannot express how much I cherish this film.
★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd
I can’t decide whether this is really very good or I’m just reacting to nostalgia, less for the time depicted than to Desplechin own place in 90’s cinema and how his aesthetics reflect both a post nouvelle vague/post cold war generation looking for its on poetical vision (so yes I was around 18 when I saw Comment je me suis dispute and it left a big mark on me). He seems very aware of this effect given that the Russian section seems to be there almost so the film could also suggest La Sentinelle. It should be mention that this is less a plot prequel to Comment (things just don’t add up perfectly) than an aesthetic one, sort of a return to an old established well; so the film images do match Amalric arc throughout the film: it is Desplechin himself dealing with his own ghost in a moment in which he is clearly having some hard time moving from wunderkind to middle aged master. It moves me a lot, but I have no idea how it affect those from whom his early work don’t quite have the same meaning.
★★★★½ review by preston on Letterboxd
Desplechin tries a hackneyed genre, the coming-of-age reminiscence, and makes it his own. The filmmaking seems to be instinctive - see e.g. the flurry of mismatched angles during Paul and Esther's first meeting, somehow reflecting their surging hormones - the characters ruled by a singular mix of self-awareness (Esther admitting she always has that effect on boys) and fevered OTT impulsiveness; their feelings seem to be too big for them, like middle-aged Paul still erupting - though he surely knows it's stupid, though indeed he doesn't consciously feel anything - at the memory of teenage betrayal. Not sure who decided on the English title but the French one seems better, if only in emphasising the role of all three youthful memories: Paul is subconsciously ruled by his childhood - he gravitates to unstable women, like Esther and his mom, and seeks comfort in elderly eccentrics like the African prof and his great-aunt - while the Russian interlude creates his 'double', the dead Paul in Australia like the dead boy in his memories, standing for his lifelong insecurity about his identity (the way he succeeds is often by putting himself down, insisting that Esther's other suitors or the prof's other students are far more competent; it's like he needs to destroy himself). "I love you only with lightness, yet I'm so heavy," he says, and Desplechin's approach to these young people is like Assayas' in Cold Water, light on the surface but aware of the cumulative weight of their playful skirmishes; if anything, Assayas went for grandiosity whereas this has a disenchanted streak, as if to say the past leads to nothing and teaches us nothing - yet we still can't escape it. A lovely movie.
★★★★ review by Redfern on Letterboxd
I'm finding it difficult to put my love for Desplechin's latest film into words. I know I have a penchant for stories where the protagonist reminisces on their past in order to create a fulfilling and satisfying portrait of their life, and quite simply, I think this is a very effective example of that method of storytelling. Desplechin displays incredible control over a narrative whose structure threatens to explode into a mess of nostalgia - whether it's the compelling leads or genuinely fascinating moments of Paul Dédalus' life (parts of which I'm sure I can relate to), something about this is beautifully gripping and the whole piece flows so smoothly from scene to scene no matter how big the jump in time is between each one. I like to laud honesty and integrity in cinema and often these are quite difficult things to measure, but I sure as hell know when I see them.
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
Second viewing, down from 69. (Star rating remains the same, though.) I'd thought some of my reservations might fall away if I watched this without fresh memories of its ostensible predecessor rattling around in my brain, but instead it wound up feeling considerably more diffuse. Desplechin makes a point of having Paul mention his double in the final scene, but the last-second effort at synthesis feels ad hoc—were the first and second sections removed, nobody unaware of the fact would sense their absence. (The brief childhood glimpse does have a function, but given how little we actually see of Paul's mother, I'm not convinced that it fulfills said function. Quite enjoy the trip to Minsk, on the other hand, without understanding why it's in this particular film.) A superlative First Big Romance picture to which unrelated reminiscences cling like barnacles.
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