‘My Golden Days’
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Stars: Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet
4 (out of 5) Globes
Bear with us on this, but Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and the intimate French dramedy “My Golden Days” have one thing in common: They're crammed silly with stuff. The first is punishing, the second is enthralling, and not just because it’s European. Stuff is what movies are made of these days — untold superheroes battling untold supervillains, in endless action set pieces that have no shape but plenty of noise and visual bric-a-brac. But maybe titles like “Avengers” are only enervating because few know how to cram with elegance.
Arnaud Desplechin, the writer-director of “My Golden Days,” knows how. He’s an old pro. Indeed, he’s been making beautifully jam-packed movies since before the newest Spider-Man, Tom Holland, was even alive. In fact, the year Holland was born, 1996, Desplechin made “My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument,” the film that really broke him through as a major international auteur. It was a three-hour relationship drama about the fractured love lives of young neurotics, including Desplechin regular Mathieu Amalric as shy but prickly Paul Dedalus. But even with so much room it positively teemed with stuff, as though Desplechin couldn’t resist piling everything he was obsessed with or thinking into every nook and cranny and corner and alcove.
With “My Golden Days,” Desplechin technically indulges in another modern movie headache: It’s a prequel (and a bit of a sequel) to “My Sex Life,” filling in Paul’s backstory as a curly-headed youth. It just doesn’t get there by the usual means. Things start with Amalric reprising Paul, who’s stopped in an airport and ushered into a scary interrogation room, forced to answer for what may be a case of identity theft or espionage. Turns out, as a teen (played by Quentin Dolmaire), he whimsically participated in a passport scam while visiting Minsk. And so a prequel to a film you may have never seen begins as an amusingly semi-serious Cold War thriller.