Nos Annees Folles (Golden Years)Cannes Film Festival 2017
André Téchiné is a legendary filmmaker, and given the support he had from so many French cinematic luminaries at the Cannes screening of Nos Annees Folles – Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche were all in attendance – this is a man definitely considered in high regard. More the surprise, then, that this trivial, melodramatic picture is less than diverting, which is the least one would hope for from a First World War drama that sees an army deserter discover the joys of being a transvestite and having forest-based sex.
Pierre Deladonchamps stars as Paul Grappe, a relatively masculine and virile recruit who enters into battle. It’s quickly clear he’s not fit for the trenches, as he displays the thousand-yard stare of a man with a sound beam over his head and a camera shoved in his face. He’s in love with Louise (Céline Sallette), who stoically works in a textiles shop and enjoys the occasional bunk-up when Paul returns from military duty. He can’t handle it for much longer and flees, so Louise ends up sticking him in the cellar to avoid the firing squad. The French hate nothing more than a traitor. Paul grows some distaste for claustrophobic and oppressive basement life; Samuel Beckett wrote wittily of such an existence in one of his French novellas. Paul’s one option of regular escape is to dress incognito as a woman. At first he hates the idea! Soon enough, he’s out on the streets past midnight and giving blowjobs to whoever will pay. Paul’s popularity peaks at a furious rate until he’s entertaining high society. What a shame then that Louise becomes pregnant as he fails to watch his daily alcohol intake. There’s a pompous Count (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet) to contend with, too, a wounded war hero in the market for Louise’s affections. Will Paul feel liberated or emasculated? Stick with it.
There is a slightly clever play-within-a-film concept that appears intermittently from the beginning. A compere with an outrageous quiff has Paul star as himself in the story of his life, although an attractive 18-year-old amusingly plays Louise, and it offers a strange deviation from the otherwise conventional plot. Téchiné further pays lip service to the problems of PTSD, sexual identity and individual autonomy, but this is generally silly stuff. Perplexing then that the movie should end with a title card proudly declaring, “based on a true story”. It didn’t resonate.
Nos Annees Folles (Golden Years) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch a clip from Nos Annees Folles (Golden Years) here: