GOLDEN EIGHTIES (Chantal Äkerman, 1986)

Shoes quickly go every which way across part of the floor at a Parisian mall called The Golden Fleece; but the viewer’s heart jumps when one pair of legs half-leaps. A reference point is the opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951), but there the two pairs of cross-cut shoes belong to men, not women, and they audibly click when one brushes against the other onboard a train. In Chantal Äkerman’s Golden Eighties (a.k.a. Window Shopping), faceless shoppers live separate lives; each is out on her own.
     Intertwined lives: most of the film’s action involves people who work at or own businesses at the mall. Young persons are wrapped up in romantic complications as they feel their way through adolescence; Monsieur Schwartz, who with his workmate wife, Jeanne (Delphine Seyrig, brilliant, gorgeous), owns a men’s clothing shop, worries about France’s weak economy and his declining sales. Jeanne reassures him that things will pick up. The couple is Jewish. (Äkerman herself is Jewish.) They are the parents of restless, impulsive Robert, who when rebuffed by Lili, the girl whom he loves, proposes marriage to a girl he hasn’t even dated. Half-leaping, Mado directs her acceptance not to Robert but to gathered girls who work at the mall; later, she walks in on her fiancé and Lili making love after-hours at the mall. Meanwhile, Jeanne is being pursued by someone from her past: Eli, who as an American soldier liberated her death camp during the war and fell in love with her. Now Jeanne’s feelings for Eli reawaken, urging her to betray her spouse as her son, unbeknownst to her, betrays his fiancée.
     Have I mentioned that Golden Eighties is a musical? Characters sing (poignantly)—perhaps Äkerman’s hommage to Jacques Demy.
     Dark, lilting, soulful, ironical.

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