Tokyo 2014: ‘The Days Come’ a fitting way to introduce Romain Goupil to new audiences

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The Days Come
Written and directed by Romain Goupil
France, 2014

The Days Come, a quirky blend of documentary footage, fiction and mid-life crisis, is a fitting way to introduce Romain Goupil (reknowned filmmaker, vocal political activist and child of ’68 in his native France) to new audiences. Delightfully absurd and occasionally self-indulgent, Goupil’s film, in which he serves as director and protagonist (playing himself), is a meta-exploration of the power of the camera to turn the mundane into a spectacle.

The film begins with Goupil in a creative rut. He’s taken with the premise of a man in possession of a camera with destructive powers (i.e. he starts filming a forest and wildfire ensues) but is unsure of how to proceed. His permissive producer encourages the idea but offers little advice. Meanwhile, the director finds much of his free time diverted toward dealing with the wrinkles of everyday life – sorting out his unemployment benefits, rescuing the tenants’ administration of the building he and his family reside in from imploding, etc.

Interspersed with contemporary scenes is footage (implied to have been taken by Goupil) from Sarajevo during a period of civil unrest, suggesting an internal struggle to reconcile his activist past with his middle-aged present. Whereas he once threw molotov cocktails and could hear real gunfire while his camera rolled, all that he has left is his reputation for his outspoken political beliefs. Goupil constantly vocalizes his frustrations that his teenaged children are, by comparison, apathetic and idle; as the not-so-politically inclined child of hippie parents, I can relate.

There is a certain level of voyeuristic pleasure in watching someone else’s life begin to unravel, as Goupil’s appears to do towards the end of the film in reaction to an increasing awareness of his own mortality. A conversation with his father, who candidly says that if an impending eye surgery renders him blind he’ll simply off himself, turns Goupil’s attention toward death, and in a humorous scene the director begins making arrangements for his own cremation. (“Why do I need to provide a phone number [for my wife]? She’ll be the one calling.”)

It remains unclear simply from watching the film whether the project, like the 2002 film Adaptation, began as something else but then came to be about the process itself. Either way, the parallel between the fictionalized Goupil’s movie idea and the actual film is undeniable. No matter what he chooses to record, something interesting and unexpected always happens. In fact, some of the most memorable and hilarious scenes involve the tenants’ association, which mostly comprises aging artists like Goupil; perhaps that’s why he is so dismissive of them – he considers them to be petty, cantankerous and past their heyday.

How does one stay relevant when the march of time and the progress of history don’t pause to acknowledge you? Making a movie is certainly one way to do it. If Goupil, the real man and not the character, sought to make a film about a person whose camera leaves chaos in its wake, that’s pretty much what he got. And it’s oh so fun to watch it all come apart.

– Misa Shikuma