Thursday, March 17, 2016

Wounded Heart, Haunting Memories

Les trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse/My Golden Days (2015) - Desplechin
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Paul Dedalus, a character last seen in Arnaud Desplechin's playful romantic comedy, Comment je me suis disputé... (Ma vie sexualle), reemerges to guide us through intensely vivid, intimate memories of his life as a young man. Trois Souvenirs has very little in common other than some names of the characters and the time frame. It is also interesting to note that it's not quite an autobiographical film since Desplechin, now in his mid 50s, is making film about people slightly younger than his age (in 1989, he was 29 years old not 19). But in its melancholic tone and sense of regret, and 10 films after since his debut in 1991, the film has the feel of aging artist searching for a defining moment(s) in his youth. And it's a beauty to behold.

The film's unwieldiness and varying tone settles after 1/3rd way in and it becomes a heartbreaking, long drawn love affair of Paul and Esther(mainly played by newcomers Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet). Desplechin knows how first love affects people- how it makes people certain way for the rest of their lives. We see Dedalus as a kid who was traumatized by an overbearing, crazy mother who commits suicide, as a teen who resolutely gets involved in pseudo political espionage act to help a total stranger escape from dire situations in the former Communist Russia on a school trip there --the episode that catapulted now grown up Paul (Mathieu Amalric) to revisit his past, and as a chain smoking, competent petit-intellectual whose life gets rattled by a long beautiful/torturous relationship with a beautiful girl, Esther (Roy-Lecollinet).

All the characters, even the minor ones, are so well drawn and beautifully acted by Desplechin's young cast. Utterly believable and charming in its sincerity, Trois Souvenirs puts any bombastic films looking back at one's life to shame. Perhaps the most heartbreaking part is Paul, now grown up anthropologist, getting a letter from Kovalki, one of his childhood friends who slept with Esther in his absence, asking for her address. Months later, he then runs into him at a concert, now a married man, Kovalki asks him about the letter. Now supposedly all grown up, yet still keeping all the bottled up feelings for those heartbreaks and memories, Paul blows up on his old friend and his wife. Childish and self-centered one might say. But Desplechin knows all too well that it's our abilities to remember that makes us human. Easily one of the best films I've seen this year so far.

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