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France / Belgium / Switzerland, 1986 (MIFF 1987)

Director: Chantal Akerman

Chantal Akerman's Golden Eighties is an exuberant witty tongue-in-cheek musical for the modern age. The inescapable comparison is with the light-opera musicals of Jacques Demy, but Akerman's touch is distinctly more vicious. The theme may be love, but the song lyrics (which she wrote herself) are unblushingly explicit, sometimes tender and sometimes malicious.

The whole film takes place in a shopping mall, as windowless and claustrophobic as a studio set. In a staid boutique we meet Jeanne (Delphme Seyng) and her husband M Schwartz (Charles Denner), whose preoccupation with business and "the shop" amounts to an obsession. When Eli (John Berry), Jeanne's Gl lover during the war turns up after all these years, she sings about her fears of running her predictable life off the rails.

Across the mall is a beauty parlour, which the kittenish Lili {Fanny Cottencon) has been given to run by her married lover M. Jean (Jean-Francois Balmer). Observed by a gossiping singing and dancing chorus of shampoo girls and boys in the mall, Lili cheats on him with the Schwartzes' son Robert (Nicolas Tronc), who in turn is worshipped by one of the shampoo girls (Lio).

Golden Eighties manages to mix its characters and their stories into a biting critique of love and mores in the 1980s. The devilish lyrics are just the punctuation it needs to keep from wandering into routine sentimentalism. They also provide an amusing reflection on musical conventions, and the possibility of using the genre to talk about unromantic things like sex and business.


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