In a shopping arcade, the paths of customers and shop girls cross on a daily basis. They all dream of love, or sing and dance to the rhythm of a choir of shampoo girls. A musical drama made up of intricate amorous entanglements.
In a shopping gallery, staff and customers cross paths and meet daily in Lili's hairdressing salon, in the Schwartz family’s clothing boutique, or at Sylvie’s bistro. They all dream about love. They talk, dance and sing, all punctuated by the shampoo girls’ choruses.
An excellent ensemble cast, including Delphine Seyrig and eighties pop star Lio, slides through the shopping arcade in a finely directed choreography and to the tones of an infectious pop soundtrack. Akerman herself wrote the lyrics for the deceptively cheerful songs and constantly misleads the viewer. Is this film really an ironic critique of the hyper-commercial 1980s or rather a loving reverie about everyday life? Akerman thoroughly indulged in the sound design for this film, which is packed with small but meaningful finds. From the click of high heels on the floor to the unwelcome sound of a zipper to the ever-changing tone and volume of the many conversations and chants.
“Golden Eighties may not seem much like a teen movie to some, but it is from this contemporary genre, more than from old musicals, that Akerman here draws her bemused tone, and her cultural purview. Her film encircles a post-feminist (and post-political) space of endless consumption, glitzy all-pervasive commodification of emotion, showbiz femininity, regressive longings for the perfect romance, a certain delicate kind of camp sensibility. And who can say to what extent this is Akerman’s own space, her own sensibility? Is there really a critical, ironic sting to this tale (above all else), or rather an affectionate accommodation to a restricted notion of everydayness in the eighties – hardly golden, yet not, it seems, so harsh, either? For at least, in this world, love is everywhere (a Demy theme, announced from the second shot of a woman kissing two men), a passionate force circulating almost independently of the people it moves and tangles.”
“The musical comedy is usually regarded as a typically American genre. Nevertheless, with Golden Eighties Chantal Akerman - who is traditionally, and incorrectly, perceived as a resolutely experimental film-maker – proves that the musical travels well and that the French language is no barrier to its charms. [...] Golden Eighties is a delicious, profound film. Chantal Akerman first creates sets and costumes whose fresh, dayglo colour schemes create a microcosm of desire and never-ending seduction. She also moulds a style or acting and movement more choreographed than natural. The songs are charming. Carried along by the chirpy music, they punctuate the twists of the plot without interrupting the action - on the contrary, they amplify it. Akerman builds a rhythm and tension which convey both lightness and nostalgia.”