Golden Eighties

Golden Eighties may not seem much like a teen movie to some, but it is from this contemporary genre, more than from old musicals, that Akerman here draws her bemused tone, and her cultural purview. Her film encircles a post-feminist (and post-political) space of endless consumption, glitzy all-pervasive commodification of emotion, showbiz femininity, regressive longings for the perfect romance, a certain delicate kind of camp sensibility. And who can say to what extent this is Akerman’s own space, her own sensibility? Is there really a critical, ironic sting to this tale (above all else), or rather an affectionate accommodation to a restricted notion of everydayness in the eighties – hardly golden, yet not, it seems, so harsh, either? For at least, in this world, love is everywhere (a Demy theme, announced from the second shot of a woman kissing two men), a passionate force circulating almost independently of the people it moves and tangles.

As a minute experiment with musical image-and-sound form, Golden Eighties deserves a long and close commentary. Let me merely suggest, for those with good ears, some great things to listen for – things which are not gags or even jokes but (as in Jacques Tati’s intricately post-dubbed cinematic universes) maddeningly infectious touches: the constant clackety-clack footsteps; the signifying of boutique muzak by a drum machine loop that gets busier each time it reappears; the deft conversion of an air-conditioner’s ‘whoosh’ or a pesky dress zipper’s noise into synthesized, rhythmic elements of the music; and the ever changing acoustics of voice and speech – spoken, sung, whispered, solo, en masse, with and without echo. One has the sense of hearing a sound ‘mix’, complete with stops, starts, modulations, tryouts ... laboratory experiments of all kinds.”

Adrian Martin1


“Akerman presents us a network narrative without a clear point of view belonging to any one particular character, following the developments in the ever-changing relationships between her ensemble cast. Akerman wouldn’t be Akerman if she hadn’t staged this very precisely. These bodies navigate the space they dwell in with a remarkable fluidity of movement. With the exception of Eli and Monsieur Jean, the shopping mall is their whole world and therefore they know it intimately. When they burst into song they not only sing for us, but also for the people around them. What is really put on display here are the characters themselves. But the act of window-shopping (like the act of looking at the cinema screen for that matter) doesn’t give you what you desire. It can only show you how to desire. Everyone in the film moves around each other but, like in the opening shot, nobody connects. There is no real exchange. There’s no forming of the couple like in The Band Wagon, where Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse’s characters can’t stand each other at first (because they dance different styles) but still seek to understand one another and finally, while walking in Central Park, learn how to move their bodies in harmony, dance step by dance step.”

Alain Tijong2