Home Hollywood Film Review: ‘Forever Young’ (‘Les Amandiers’)

Film Review: ‘Forever Young’ (‘Les Amandiers’)

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Patrice Chéreau had a strong belief in acting. Performances were the lifeblood of a show, its raison d’être. Chéreau, the great French filmmaker who died in 2013, followed this approach in his stage and screen work, agitating, wrestling, and contending with the mystical bond between performers and their roles.

During his time as director of Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, France, where he built the acting school and film studio, he may have put this theory to the most stringent test. Chéreau joined Amandiers in 1982 and spent a decade molding a group of performers. He was a volatile character, with a quick temper and notoriously demanding demands. However, the institution provided unrivalled instruction for prospective performers. They could not only learn but also embody the principles of their trade.

Such hostile surroundings elicit legends of epic proportions. Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, an Italian-French actress, investigates Chéreau’s Amandiers years in her film Forever Young. Her interest in the issue is driven by the personal, as it has been in her past directorial works (this is her fifth). Bruni Tedeschi attended the prestigious institution and made her film debut in Chéreau’s 1987 play Hôtel de France, which premiered at the festival.

Bruni Tedeschi’s film is set in the late 1980s and follows a group of Amandiers students. They’re a fashionable bunch, anxious to impress Chéreau and each other. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that their time at this school will be more than simply a battle for roles or an endurance test for their fickle director’s moods. They’ve entered an intimate environment, a society that resembles a cult, like the protagonists in Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History.

A rapid sequence of young aspirants tossing their lines, flailing their bodies, and participating in insane levels of theatrics starts the video. A group of professors sits in front of them, mostly uninterested. Chéreau (Louis Garrel) isn’t in the movie. According to his associate director Pierre Romans, he prefers to keep a low profile (Micha Lescot).

The two become fast friends, developing a relationship that I wish was explored more in the movie. On admissions day, they meet the rest of their class. Students shoving their way to Amandiers’ main entrance, where a list of 12 names is pinned to the door, is an unceremonious affair. The scenario is full with drama and passion, much like the auditions. Students scream when they are accepted and cry when they are rejected. Some anxious students approach professors and ask for another opportunity.

Forever Young begins to dip into more real material as it extends beyond the traditional melodrama of adolescent love, such as the strains of a still-misunderstood profession and the fuzzy border between life and performance.

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