Golden Eighties: Love in the Age of Material Desire

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Chantal Akerman’s films examine the limited spaces in which women must find their freedom in. Take for example Delphine Seyrig in Jeanne Dielman (1975) shifting constantly between the kitchen, bedroom, and dining room, or Akerman as the unknown girl in La Chambre (1972) constantly on the move in order to avoid the camera’s gaze. In her musical Golden Eighties, this space takes the form of a single mall hall occupied by a salon, a clothing store, and a cafe. There are several women in question, all longing for a certain romantic longing. Seyrig plays Jeanne Schwartz, the co-owner of the clothing store, and a Polish Holocaust survivor who runs into her old American lover. Myriam Boyer plays Sylvie, a hairdresser in love with Schwartz’s Don Juan son Robert (Nicolas Tronc), and Fanny Cottencon plays Lili, the owner of the salon, the mistress of a local gangster, and Robert’s lover. Regret dominates the past and any seeming potential the future may hold. Love becomes displaced by complacency and money–two factors needed to live as Robert’s father advises him. Akerman’s prowess for developing psychological spaces seeps through here, drenching the film in an appropriately oppressive atmosphere. Biting lyrics in combination with at times upbeat pop music mask a deeper sadness where the efficiency of capitalism transforms love into just another tool for upward mobility.

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