Wednesday, June 29, 2022

HEROIN, COKE, AIDS, AND ACTING IN THE ’80S

May 24, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young

= Bob Dylan

The setting for Valerie Bruni Tedeschi’s Forever Young is the renowned drama school Ecole des Amandiers in Nanterre (the film is titled Les Amandiers in France) in the 1980s, but it could as easily have been set at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art or New York’s Julliard School or Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio (actually some of the scenes in the movie were shot there), or the Stella Adler Academy of Acting in Hollywood. At any of these locations back then, you’d like find a cast of characters similar to the one that inhabits this film — young people, throwing off inhibitions and restrictions and morphing into a motley collection of characters. There is little plot here. What we have instead are little — and often poignant — vignettes of the students and their instructors, including the school’s famous director, the late Patrice Chéreau (who served as the president of the Cannes jury in 2003). “The film’s scattershot structure actually works in its favor,” wrote Wendy Ide in the British trade publication Screen. Each of the characters is connected to Tedeschi’s alter ego, Stella, played by Nadia Tereszkiewicz, who comes from a wealthy family and soon forms a close relationship with the class’s Marlon Brando wannabe, Etienne, played by Sofiane Bennacer, a self-destructive heroin addict. (It’s probably no coincidence that Tedeschi named her protagonist Stella, the same name as Brando’s all-suffering girlfriend in A Streetcar Named Desire.) The film attempts to raise such issues as drug use, gay openness, and AIDS that confronted young performers in the ’80s, but, as Lovia Gyarkye observed in The Hollywood Reporter, “there isn’t enough time spent on any single one to meaningfully earn our investment.” And Todd McCarthy in Deadline concluded that what finally emerges is a spectacle “that emphasizes and encourages unlimited narcissism, uncensored selfishness, massive drug consumption, and self-destructive behavior that would have made the Sex Pistols envious.”