By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing at the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.
A somewhat embarrassing admission: My Golden Days is my first Desplechin film, so I’m no position to judge whether it’s a good, bad or mediocre version of the French auteur’s work. I just know that I loved its strange magic – a multi-planed memoir with a fleeting interest in genres, My Golden Days follows mercurial French ex-pat Paul (Mathieu Amalric) as he returns to his home country for the first time in a decade, setting off a series of nesting doll remembrances and counterpointing narrative framing devices. There is such an enrapturing stylistic mix of the theatrical and the familiar, as well as an effectively fluid use of contradictory musical moods on the soundtrack, you can tell that Desplechin was a major influence on the controlled chaos of John Magary’s The Mend, and possibly on the embittered romanticism of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love. After going down a few seemingly blind alleys, the story finally settles on Paul’s teenage years with the aloof and depressive blonde beauty who got away. The details of the story aren’t particularly compelling, but Desplechin’s telling casts a spell that’s curiously thrilling, as the film seems to be constantly reinventing itself as it goes, mutating and evolving like an unpleasant memory.