Golden Years: Longevity, liberty, Téchiné
by Bénédicte Prot
- CANNES 2017: Great French filmmaker André Téchiné brings us a film on two astonishing historical figures, with the same energy as always
André Téchiné was not short of company for the presentation at Cannes of his latest film, Golden Years [+see also:
film profile]. And with good reason: the Cannes Film Festival accompanied the screening, with great pomp, with a moving tribute to his 50-year career, reuniting the writer of Rendez-vous, Voleurs, Wild Reeds and Strayed (described by Thierry Frémaux as "always fresh", yet "always the same") with his muses : Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart. The most recent, Céline Sallette – or rather most recent (plural), as Pierre Deladonchamps (Stranger by the Lake [+see also:
interview: Alain Guiraudie
film profile])also stars in Golden Years, as Paul Grappe and his female alter ego Suzanne – were also in attendance, to accompany the filmmaker through the overwhelming emotion that continues, by his own admission, to well up inside him every time he unveils a few film, even after 50 years in the business.
It’s a hundred-year-old story that Téchiné tells here, without changing the names of its protagonists, supported by some fine costume work, first and foremost where the “blue horizons” are concerned, as Paul Grappe is a soldier who doesn’t want to return to the trenches – as even when the Great War doesn’t kill you, sometimes after several attempts and returns to the front, it leaves the body horribly maimed and disfigured. Paul’s wardrobe rapidly acquires soft and sparkling fabrics in the bright colours of a cabaret number: the ploy cooked up by his loving wife Louise (Sallette), who works as a seamstress in a fashion house, so that her husband doesn’t have to go into hiding as a deserter, is to dress as a woman, an identity that Paul/Suzanne manages to not only assume completely, but enjoy shamelessly too, a small-time celebrity and even pioneer in the context he slowly starts to evolve in, one of a certain amount of sexual fluidity.
Nonetheless, the biggest awakening in the film isn’t on the part of Paul/Suzanne, who inebriates his senses and intoxicates himself with games of identity and seduction brought on by his cross-dressing, but that of Louise, whose body the former worships at the beginning of the film, paying less attention to it once he becomes a woman himself (when she is about to become mother to their child). Through his position in relation to her, Téchiné revels in describing the absolute love capable of generating total acceptance of the other, despite that person’s desertion (of their partner/family) and dishonesty. "I love him the way he is", says Louise at one point, confirming the love in her actions with words. In the end, the person emancipated is her, as she acts without selfishness, guided only by love, whatever the circumstances she finds herself battling against and extracting herself from, for this to win out in spite of everything.
Golden Years is a spirited, well-rounded and rather modern film about two astonishing historical figures, played with energy and abandon by two actors who fit their roles perfectly. Produced and distributed in France by ARP Sélection, the film is being sold internationally by Celluloid Dreams.
(Translated from French)
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