Old soldiers don’t just fade away

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Old soldiers don’t just fade away

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I was a freshman in college when I watched the French film “Un homme et une femme,” or “A Man and a Woman.” After watching that movie, I was dying to go to France and walk the beach in Deauville, a resort town on the coast of Normandy. I was enchanted by the scene where Anouk Aimee and Jean-Louis Trintignant take a walk on the beach. When I lived in Paris, I used to drive two and a half hours to visit Deauville whenever I had time.

When director Claude Lelouch received the Palme d’Or at the 1966 Cannes Film Festival, Jean-Louis Trintignant was 36 years old. Some 46 years have passed, and now the 82-year-old actor is starring in the movie, “Amour,” directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. “Amour” received the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival last week. Standing at the podium, Trintignant’s thinning gray hair and wrinkled face showed the mark of time.

This year’s Cannes Film Festival was a festival of the elderly. The highest prize went to a film about the love of an elderly couple facing death. Director Michael Haneke is 70 years old, and Emmanuelle Riva, who played the wife, is 85 years old. Emmanuelle Riva once starred in “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” which received a special award at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. Among the 22 films in competition at this year’s festival, five were directed by filmmakers over the age of 70. French filmmaker Alain Resnais, who directed “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!” is 90 years old and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who directed “Like Someone in Love,” is 72 years old.

As the average life span increases, elderly people’s scope of activities is expanding. More people believe that retirement is not an end but a new beginning. Seniors are increasingly pursuing independent lifestyles instead of depending on others. Honam University Professor Han Hye-gyeong is an expert in gerontology, and emphasizes that one of the secrets of happy elderly life is to restore healthy self-centrism. Independence may be an inevitable choice as people live longer.

Naturally, we will see more films, plays and literature for the elderly and by the elderly. In Korea, “Eungyo,” a novel about the sexual nature of a septuagenarian poet, as well as the movie based on the story, created controversy. General Douglas MacArthur proudly said, “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.” As I watched Trintignant in his 80s competing at Cannes, I thought it should be revised, “Old soldiers never die; their roles just change.”

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Bae Myung-bok
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