53rd Chicago Int’l Film Fest #12: “Golden Years” (France)

“Golden Years” (France)
Directed by André Téchiné

golden 2Not to be confused with another French film, 2015’s fantastic “My Golden Days”, André Téchiné’s “Golden Years” is anything but. In what is fast becoming well-worn territory (although perhaps not in France), this story of trans-awakening is ultimately un-moored by its brutal script.

The performers give it their all, they really do, but what script there is is all plot and no character development. That’s right, a film about the the transference of gender identity and sexual preference forgot to tell us how the title character grew from abhoring the idea to wearing it like a comfortable old sweater. Oh, and then there’s the out-of-nowhere third act. And lest I forget, there’s the juxtaposition of reality and a cabaret act that the director fails to follow through on…leaving you wondering why he bothered in the first place. Truly a terrible script…but it IS based on a true story. Zzzzzzzz.

Too bad, because all the other elements are there. As a period piece, it is quite gorgeous. While the WWI scenes seem a little slapdash in production detail, the rest of the film is gorgeous. A brilliant golden hue covers every frame and you can practically smell the workplace, theater and dilapidated apartments. The music, while a little over-emotional, is still quite fitting for the film. And the acting is very, very good. Especially our lead, Pierre Deladonchamps, who is able to convincingly portray beauty, sadness, tenderness, PTSD, a capacity to love, and a voracious sexuality. His wife, the sad-eyed Céline Sallette, does not fare quite as well, due to a script that treats her like a doormat throughout, and never allows her to grow in to her third act incarnation. But she gives it her all. The rest of the cast is fine, if trying a little too hard to be “of” the period…like they turned up the “Moulin Rouge” energy to about half…which is about half too much.

I don’t know if this is the first film from France to tackle this subject, but if it is, that’s too bad. This film will make it harder for others with better and more human stories to find the funding to make their films.

And, by the way, film industry, films about trans-men and -women don’t NEED to be based on a true story to be exceptional. Can we not make movies about what’s universal to the process of moving from hiding to exclaiming? Is “Transparent” all there is? Try harder.

Written on 10/24

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