The Golden Age (L’Âge D’Or) – Film Review
The golden hues of Saint-Tropez engulf the charming love letter to ‘60s France that is The Golden Age. Not to be confused with Buñuel’s surrealist film from 1930 of the same title, The Golden Age pays tribute to the musicality and the artistry of the late ‘60s and that inspiration for change. The film is set in May 1967, a year before the revolutionary change seen in France, but touches upon the desire for progression in a world where individual success is worshipped, and war was erupting.
The Golden Age provides that recipe for thought provoking discussion of ideals versus the practical realities as encountered by the protagonists Angèle and Sebastian following a chance meeting. The dreamily beautiful golden settings of the locations, there are 35 of them, belie the profound philosophical and political discourse surrounding Angèle and Sebastian.
The Golden Age is a beautiful looking nostalgic film with hynoptic opening shots of Notre Dame. It is one of the last films to display the majestic façade of Notre Dame in its glory before the cathedral was damaged by fire. The Golden Age therefore provides a heart-warming, comforting setting assisted by its saturated colour palette.
The prominence of music permeates The Golden Age from the outset with the
non-diegetic rock and blues music played, which also provides a humorous effect within Sebastian’s initial scenes as he seems quite maladroit. Sebastian, played by Sebastien Cipolla, is the penniless film producer who meets the ambitious theatre actress Angèle, without a traditional meet-cute, as they navigate their way through Paris trying to remain faithful to their hopes and dreams. Their differences present that obstacle as Sebastian seems lost without
that life anchor and Angèle reads Baudelaire.
Reminiscent of Before Sunrise in many scenes, with that walk and discuss rom-com format, Angèle and Sebastian represent that cultural clash between the American world and the French world. Such clash is also symbolic of the differences in approaches by the two cultures to cinema, art and the joie de vivre displayed within The Golden Age.
Jenna Suru as Angèle is also impressively the writer, director and producer of The Golden Age as a feature directorial debut. Under Suru’s vision, The Golden Age is a homage to those artists that travelled to Saint-Tropez, similar to Angèle and Sebastian, to change the world effectively. The Golden Age embraces those humble beginnings of Saint-Tropez as a fishing village which imbued that magic for locals and
others as a microcosm where rock and roll, from the start of the hippie era,
could be enjoyed, with artists such as The Beatles referenced.
Suru is expressive as Angèle, the struggling actress attempting to find her place within the world whilst appreciating its beauty and hardship. Indeed, the sense of beauty permeates throughout The Golden Age as the cinematography, to Suru’s credit, is alluring with intoxicating sunsets in Los Angeles and naturalistic panoramic views by the port in Saint-Tropez. The aesthetics are dreamy which resonate with the idealistic exposition expressed by Sebastian and Angèle. It is unsurprising that The Golden Age was the winner of the Best Female Feature Film Award at the London Independent Film Festival in 2020.
The Golden Age is dialogue heavy, which may also work well as a play. The film also operates as a mise en abîme given the nature of Angèle and Sebastian’s plans to change the world. It is fascinating to observe how their perspectives change as they influence each other, realistically filmed across the course of time spent together.
However, it was difficult to believe that Angèle would be willing to invest so much time in Sebastian’s goals as quite frankly he seems to be a humourless bore in many scenes, but attraction is always so subjective!
Sebastian’s journey is unfortunately a tad predictable with a redemptive arc
however, this raises the question that underlies The Golden Age’s themes, namely, how to remain truthful to oneself and to one’s art. The notion of sacrifice for one’s art is inevitably presented within The Golden Age and is certainly a lingering question within the film. However, other issues such as the impact of the Vietnam War are relegated to a few inconsequential scenes and could have been expanded.
The Golden Age is a celebratory film, its soundtrack is intoxicating and invokes the sensations of freedom through dance. The camera angles pan during moments where jive and swing dance routines are performed to exhilarating, immersive effect and create that joyful impression of being within the heart of the dance hall.
Angèle’s vibrant dresses and ’60s inspired hairstyle and make up are equally striking and conjure up those images of the pioneering fashion from that period which were also a chapter in that desire for change. This is another example of Suru’s detailed direction, which is impressive. Saint-Tropez and Paris are also fully fledged characters in The Golden Age, and it is delightful to view their captivating locations and to absorb their magical quality that exudes on screen, again to Suru’s credit.
The Golden Age provides that on screen magic with an encouragement to fulfil our hopes and dreams in our quest for self-discovery. It is also an enjoyable watch as a riveting homage to the musicality of the ’60s, aspirations and that desire for progressive change. Plus, there are such mesmerising images of France in The Golden Age to sit back, enjoy and immerse yourself within.