Friday, April 8, 2016
My Golden Days (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse)
The film's French title "Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse" (Three memories of my youth) seems more appropriate to summarize the film's narrative structure. The three memories are "Childhood," "Russia," and "Esther" from an anthropologist Paul Dédalus (Mathieu Amalric) who has been living in Tajikistan. In "Childhood," the film briefly flashes back to Paul's turbulent childhood dealing with his estranged mother. In "Russia," like telling an espionage tale during the cold war, the film recalls an episode where a teenage Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) helps a Jewish teenager escape the Soviet Union by using Paul's identity. Although it's slightly longer, it only qualifies as the second course of a multi-course meal and merely introduces the flavor of its young characters that will be served in the main course.
The delicious main course is "Esther" which reflects the time period in the film's English title. It spellbindingly unfolds Paul's first love affair with Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet), a seductive, beautiful, and immature 16-year-old who enjoys being the center of attention of other boys at school. Although handsome and charming Paul is no match physically to Esther's other boyfriends, he is determined to impress her and win her over. After he left his hometown Roubaix for Paris to study in a University, they write letters to each other daily to keep the love alive. But how long can that first love survive?
The first two memories quickly disappear to give way to the love story between the attractive Paul and Esther, superbly performed by the two new comers. Their passionate pursuit of love is both fascinating and appealing to watch. I can't help but wonder what it would look like if their story is set in today's digital age. Will their story still be as romantic and nostalgic as the scene where Paul reads out loud his hand written letters? Or perhaps a facetime call will end all the longing and desire that inspired those words on paper.
The screen time of the adult Paul isn't as compelling as the teenage Paul. Being a regular collaborator in Arnaud Desplechin's films, Mathieu Amalric seems to be a must-have condiment in the director's each exquisite offering. Let's hope that the terrific Quentin Dolmaire becomes the director's newly found must-have ingredient in crafting his future delights in French cinema.