Youth Without Youth
Writer-director Eva Ionesco uses her own life as [art of her inspiration for “Golden Youth” (“Une jeunesse dorée”). Set in the late 70s, during the fading days of the famed Parisian nightclub Le Palace which was a mecca of the period’s varied iniquities, where a young couple in love find themselves sucked up into the bizarre sexual decadence of a much older couple who prey on the young creatures they rope in at the club. Rose (Galatea Bellugi) and Michel (Lukas Ionesco) are in the midst of a passionate, all-consuming romance. The only trouble is, Rose is seventeen. Taking responsibility for her, Michel is granted permission to take Rose via social services as long as Rose agrees to attend school, learning her trade as a pastry chef. Naturally, this isn’t their plan— the young lovers are obsessed with partying at the decadent nightclub Le Palace. Desperate to become a renowned painter, Michel has fallen under the spell of the decadent bourgeois couple Lucile (Huppert) and Hubert (Melvil Poupaud). Lucile commissions a series of paintings from Michel, which she makes obvious is merely a ploy to bed him, aggravating Rose. However, it’s not long before the two couples become further intertwined in more ways than one, forcing Rose to explore her own passions.
The Palace nightclub was synonymous with stylish couture from Karl Lagerfeld, St Laurent and Missoni. It was the time of Human League, Grace Jones and Brian Ferry, It was also the place where Rose comes to dance with her artist boyfriend. Both are looking to find their places in the world.
Ionesco deftly captures the Seventies zeitgeist and the acting all around is excellent even though the plot has no great surprises. but narrative-wise the drama plays out with no surprises. And while Huppert holds court with her sterling support, Poupard also holds sway with his graceful nonchalance, the young two providing alluring eye candy as the doomed and clingy lovers, caught between a desire to succeed and a need to be loved.
Golden Youth takes us back to the late 1970’s when Americans were desperately squeezing into Studio 54, and we Europeans were flocking to the more accessible but equally debauched Le Palace night club in Paris. It was home to extravagant theme parties and performances, that literally threw together rich and poor, gay and straight, black and white.
I remember the excessive debauchery of the time and for a movie that has so much to dhow us, it becomes exhausting. Huppert looks wonderful in the gorgeous collection of costumes she gets too wear, but beyond that she seems uncomfortable and awkward in a role that so doesn’t suit her and gives her lines such as “Hubert has a really lovely, penis and he knows how to use it“.