Director: Arnaud Desplechin | 120 minutes | drama | Actors: Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Mathieu Amalric, Dinara Drukarova, Cécile Garcia-Fogel, Françoise Lebrun, Irina Vavilova, Olivier Rabourdin, Elyot Milshtein, Pierre Andrau, Lily Taieb, Raphaël Cohen, Kheifets Grego Gallory, Clémence Le Gallory, Clémence Le Gallory Fernandez, Anne Benoît, Yassine Douighi, Eve Doe-Bruce, Mélodie Richard, Eric Ruf, Antoine Bui, Timon Michel
Director Arnaud Desplechin’s ‘Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse’ is the sequel or rather the prequel to ‘Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle)’ from 1996. The subtitle was ‘Nos arcadies’, based on the romantically idyllic Arcadia from ancient Greece, in which people only had an eye for each other and for love.
The anthropologist Paul Dédalus returns to France from Tajikistan. At customs, there appears to be something strange going on with his passport. He has a doppelganger, worse still, it’s someone who died in Australia two years ago. During his interrogation in a bare room, Paul (Mathieu Amalric) recalls three episodes from his childhood: 1. His eventful childhood. 2. Russia, the dangerous school trip to Minsk and 3. Esther, his childhood sweetheart from the age of 19 to 25.
The third episode in particular is generously proportioned by Desplechin. Perhaps a bit too broad, because this coming-of-age drama with all its ups and downs becomes a repetition of moves at some point. We see the young Paul (Quentin Dolmaire, handsome figure with a special voice), an anthropologist in training, who returns for a weekend to his hometown Roubaix. There he surrounds himself with his sister Delphine, his confused brother Ivan and his friends Robert and Jean-Pierre. And there he also came into contact with the love of his life, Esther, a girl from his sister’s class.
There is sometimes old-fashioned zooming in and out and the use of a split screen and protagonists who literally present some love letters in a very personal way (by looking straight into the camera) makes ‘Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse’ a separate film. But it doesn’t all look away easily. The storyline is too jumpy for that.
Papa is not often at home as a representative ‘in everything and anything’, so the Dédalus house is regularly the scene of student parties, where the male protagonists all seem fascinated by the elusive, unpredictable Esther. Despite studying in Paris, Paul tries to maintain their relationship from a distance. Mainly by writing letters. They both have other sweethearts, but they allow each other to. Because isn’t their love ultimately destined?
The sad thing about the film is that director Desplechin often treats us to scenes that linger a bit in a vacuum. Despite the reasonably chronological order, there is little structure in what he presents us. It remains with fragments of memories. Yet it is all fascinating enough, especially because of the excellent playing of Lou Roy-Lecollinet (Esther). In terms of emotion we are thrown from place to place and if we are honest: was that not the case with our first really great love? Repel, attract, let go and come together again. Anger, fear, indifference, rebellion and sadness. The whole rollercoaster of emo comes along. Even when it is finally ‘out’ between the two lovers, they can hardly forget each other. Because: “Friendship does not work if passion is still alive.”
Not always an (anthropo) logical film, but certainly worth watching. Growing up, growing up and love. Three souvenirs from France …