Golden Eighties

Director Chantal Akerman / 1986 / France,Belgium

Chantal Akerman puts love and capitalism in the crosshairs in this acidly funny, vibrantly coloured musical set entirely within a shopping mall.

Two shopfronts, a juice bar and a multiplex play host to romantic yearnings and intrigues: hairdresser Mado loves wayward clothes store scion Robert; Robert loves Lili, the owner of the neighbouring hair salon; and Lili is seeing gangster and sugar daddy Mr Jean. Meanwhile, Robert’s mother Jeanne (a luminous Delphine Seyrig) is about to encounter a visitor from the past who will plunge her contented life into disarray, and Robert’s father has his eye on Lili’s retail space.

Irrepressibly catchy, light as a feather and with a delightfully cynical sting, Akerman’s pastel-coloured, MGM-inspired 1986 musical may be distinctly more playful than her vaunted, Sight and Sound poll-topping masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (MIFF 1979), yet it’s no less formally rigorous or daring. Perfectly capturing its titular decade with its kitsch decor, big hair, suits and synth-pop songs (co-composed by the director herself), this modernist musical remains one of Akerman’s most vibrant and inventive – not to mention lesser-seen – works.

A ruthlessly logical, ironically brittle tale of love, desire and loss set within the inescapably public space of a shopping mall … Somewhere between camp and straight, satire and romance, teen movie and avant-garde masterpiece.” – Adrian Martin

This screening will be introduced by writer and critic Isabella Trimboli (The Saturday Paper), and a panel discussion will follow the film.

Isabella Trimboli is a critic and essayist. She has written about film, literature, music and art for outlets including Metrograph Journal, The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, Sydney Review of Books and The Guardian. She is the co-founding editor of print music journal Gusher and the music editor for The Big Issue Australia.

David Heslin is the editor of Metro magazine, Australia’s oldest quarterly film and TV publication. His writing on film has previously appeared in Metro, Senses of Cinema and Wonderland (Thames & Hudson, 2018).

Philippa Hawker is a writer on film and the arts. She is working on a book about Jean-Pierre Léaud, and was formerly a film reviewer and arts writer at The Age, a film writer at The Australian and the literary editor at The Sunday Herald.

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