The Best Years of a Life
- 1h 30m
An old man is having memories of a former lover who is still alive. Images of their affair showing them young combine with dreams and poetryAn old man is having memories of a former lover who is still alive. Images of their affair showing them young combine with dreams and poetryAn old man is having memories of a former lover who is still alive. Images of their affair showing them young combine with dreams and poetry
He was maligned for bringing out Un homme et une femme, 20 ans déjà (1986) and yet that twenty-years-later continuation of the story of Jean-Louis and Anne, always starring the incomparable royalty of French Cinema Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimée was very human, even totally believable and teeming with Lelouch authorship signatures. Beats me why folks trashed it.
Now comes Les plus belles années d'une vie, The Best Years of a Life (2019), 33 years after the second film, 53 years after the original masterpiece (but for the sake of the story it is treated as 50 years), with Jean-Louis Trintignant 89 years old and Anouk Aimée, 87, when this film was shot. Handsome and beautiful as ever, commanding like, indeed, royalty of cinema, in a love lost and found, in real life and daydreams. The same actors who played Anne's daughter and Jean-Louis' son at 7 years old in the original masterpiece, reprise the roles of Francoise and Antoine, now 57 years old, as Antoine cares for his father, now in a specialized home for old-age loss of memory. Also reprising her original role, the 1965 white Mustang no. 184 from the Monte Carlo Rally. And in the role of the haven where dreams might have come true, Deauville, the ocean beach, two and a half hours' drive from Paris. What is reality, what is dream and what is fantasy. Does it matter?
In this outing, Jean-Louis and Anne bring their story to a full circle that instead of closure provides hope and new beginnings. The line that closes the film comes after the end of the roll of the end-credits, so, wait for it. Anne, on Antoine's request, decides to visit ailing Jean-Louis in the hope that her presence might help his memory. After all, as Antoine explained, she is the only part of his life that he remembers, because she was his best memory. Will he remember her if she stands before him in real life today?
Throughout the film, their story is told with original footage and references from the 1966 film. But there is no reference whatsoever to the 1986 film and the events of that time. Perhaps the public succeeded in making Lelouch afraid to reference the film they did not like. But I think he should have. It is a part of the story we know. I'm sorry he left it out of the narrative of their lives.
I don't know any other filmmaker, any auteur, who use decades and generations to tell a story and Lelouch has done that very often. He is a master at it, and nobody can deny him that.
The Best Years of a Life is a beautiful film and thought-provoking. It stands very well on its own two feet.
- Oct 29, 2021