A bit of French love opened the 30° Mar del Plata Film Festival. My Golden Days, Arnaud Desplechin’s latest film, was the chosen one to officially open this edition with the presence of its renowned director. "The memories from my youth are more connected with books and films than life experiences”, Desplechin confessed with a smile during the press conference held at Provincial Hotel”. Though he declares himself a fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s films –The Outsiders was a huge reference for My Golden Days-, Francois Truffaut’s influence is visible in the construction of the characters. The director goes back to the protagonists of his third film, My Sex Life -1996-, Paul and Esther, but instead of focusing on the present of the couple, he decides to go to their past.
"In the beginning of My Sex Life, the narrator admitted that he hadn’t had sexual relations with Esther in ten years. I was interested in thinking how this couple, so different but who needed each other so much, had come to that point, when from the very beginning you could see this need”, tells Desplechin. "Then I got together with Mathieu Amalric and, visiting Paris, I thought of doing this sort of prequel with younger characters”.
The film is divided into four different times. Paul’s present –played by Amalric- trying to go back to France, and three memories: his though childhood with his parents and brothers; a trip to the Soviet Union when he is a teenager in order to help a Jewish family escape; and, most importantly, the first meeting with Esther, the love of his life, at the moment when he starts studying anthropology. "Though it’s an ensemble piece, the protagonist goes back and forth in space and time. The characters are lonely people”, explains the director.
Paul’s memories emerge when he is accused of espionage. "I wanted today’s young people to be interested in the plot. I thought a police context could catch them”, answers the director. "That’s how we get to know the character’s youth and family, his relationship with women and his country. Though it takes place in the 80s, Paul is less interested in the fall of the Berlin Wall than on the arrival of pop music. However, it was a crucial moment in European history”.
For Desplechin, cinema is a kind of dream and, at the same time, a filter of reality. Probably because of this, in several of his previous films, there are psychoanalysts. "I consider myself a self-taught psychoanalyst. When I was 18, I got a Lacan book and it took me 2 years to understand it because at first I couldn’t make a word of it. Then I read Frued, and I realized how close psychoanalysis and cinema are, and they were born practically at the same time”, he comments. "We dream images but we don’t know what they mean. What I find interesting is to think or translate those images into cinema”.
Black humor in unexpected moments is another characteristic of the author of Kings and Queen, but this is not random: "when there is a violent situation or a very important dramatic scene, there is a sort of cut when characters tend to fall, even literally as in A Christmas Tale. That breakup occurs between grotesque and suspense. I believe it’s interesting to incorporate that so that the characters lose their heroism and become more humane. That fall is a metaphor of the humanization of characters”.
My Golden Days also introduces something new in Desplachin’s cinema. After having worked with renowned French actors, he chooses, for the first time, non-professional actors and adolescents for the leading roles. "I wanted poor characters, with whom 16-year-old youngster would feel identified. The five actors accepted my idiosyncrasy and each contributed a lot. Working with them was amazing. When it comes to shooting, there are no significant differences regarding the performances. This film has very difficult roles. While we were shooting, these young actors performed as Denueve or Amalric”.
Desplechin was relaxed and grateful for being in Mar del Plata. He admits being a fan of Jorge Luis Borges’ reviews and of Wild Tales. "France and Argentina are beautiful countries, culturally speaking. The important things is diversity”, he states. He likes Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson, but he feels more identified with Noah Baumbach. Though he is still enjoying the good reception of his last film, he is already thinking about new projects. "My next film will be the most autobiographical one. The relationship between a film director and an actress. I still don’t know the cast but it will probably be Mathieu Amalric in the leading role. Arnaud Desplechin, a guest of honor to start the Festival the best possible way.