Directed by Davy Chou
Official Selection, 2012 Berlin International Film Festival
A cinematic séance for cinema itself, GOLDEN SLUMBERS begins with footage of a journey in slow motion. We’re heading back in time but the spaces we’re exploring are of a haunted present. The 1960s and 70s were known as a “golden age” of Cambodian cinema, or at least that’s how it was recollected to young Parisian Davy Chou, who only recently discovered that his grandfather was producer Van Chann, whose films embody the glory of a Cambodia before the Khmer Rouge squashed the movie industry. With the murderous regime came the near eradication of the 400 films made in 15 years.
Without archival footage to rely on, GOLDEN SLUMBERS has to reinvent the history-of-film documentary. Chou lingers on images of old spaces (theaters-emptied-out, movie palaces-turned-karaoke bars) and sounds of an era (radio transmissions of film trailers, pop songs engraved on vinyl and digitized for YouTube). The period is evoked through memories of those who made the films, those who idolized the stars, and those who remembered fleeing war through cinema. In the absence of footage from the films, Chou stages shadows of the Golden Age: film narratives are recalled through the fog of memory, special effects are evoked obliquely and jokingly, movie faces are remembered through newsprint and fading posters. Collectively, they form a fuzzy picture that we as 21st century filmgoers can fill in so that the Cambodian Golden Age can be resurrected and survive. –Brian Hu