Humble perhaps because his film had been welcomed with open arms by the parallel festival, the Directors’ Fortnight, after being given the cold shoulder by the more prestigious official Festival selection.
Since 1991 Desplechin has had five films in the official selection at Cannes, most recently two years ago with Jimmy P an Indian from the Plains which starred Benicio del Toro.
In My Golden Days, a bitter-sweet romantic drama, his favourite actor, Mathieu Amalric, plays Paul Dedalus, who looks back on his lost love. The romance he had in his late teens with the lippy – both physically and verbally – Esther, played by Lou Roy-Lecollinet takes up most of the film.
The young Dedalus is played by Quentin Dolmaire. The character is appealing in several ways, and the Dolmair/Desplechin team manage to turn what may sometimes seem like hollow acting due to lack of experience into a characteristic.
The film has been touted as a prequel to Desplechin’s 1996 film My Sex Life (How I got into an Argument). However, Desplechin told RFI that’s because Dedalus is a larger-than-life-hero who therefore has to have had a youth, like all superheroes.
“Mathieu and I invented this character as a superhero, so that he wouldn’t be realistic,” he said. “I hope that I have succeeded in making a film which stands alone and that people will enjoy My Golden Years without having seen My Sex Life.”
The superhero story does actually get left behind as the particular joy and the pain of young love takes over and eventually overwhelms the film. In My Golden Days emotions are up and down and some slope into dullness, Dedalus’s emotions remain steadily high, aspiring to the bravery of poets. Some will enjoy the literary references, some the cute humour, some the late 80s music.
My Golden Days does stand on its own thanks to the love-story and the development of painful experiences as the characters enter adult life, leaving more or less happy childhood behind.
Desplechin’s a cultivated chap and his main character, while loving and lusting after Esther, is deeply into books, even insolent Esther likes the Greek alphabet and his brother Ivan, a potential bank-robber grows up questioning the relationship between God and existence.
Yeats gets a mention and at the end we realise that Paul Dedalaus is carrying Yeats’s “fanatic heart” from the early 20th-century poet’s The Winding Stair.