The latest film from Mia Hansen-Love (the semi-autobiographical Goodbye, First Love) is a character study that looks at the early development of garage and house dance music in Paris in the 90s, and will probably appeal more to people who love that kind of thing. I found it something of a bore.
Paul (played by Felix de Givry) is a teenager who forms a DJ collective with a group of friends and travel around Paris while trying to catch a break. With his best friend Stan (Hugo Conzelman) he forms a group called Cheers, and while they enjoy a lifestyle of music, sex and drugs, they don’t make a lot of money. But the journey does take Paul to Manhattan, and Chicago before it all starts to go pear shaped. Stan goes missing for large chunks of the film.
Meanwhile Paul meets and breaks up with a succession of girls (including one American played by Greta Gerwig in an extended cameo) who have trouble adjusting to his peripatetic lifestyle. And Paul ignores the sound advice of his mother (played by Lebanese-born actress Arsinee Khanjian, a regular in the films of Atom Egoyan).
We get to meet some of Paul’s close friends, including Cyril (Roman Kolinka), who is more downbeat than the optimistic Paul, and he pours his frustrations out into a series of dark illustrations for a book called Song Of The Machine. There is also fellow DJ duo known as Respect (Paul Spera and Laurent Cazanave) and his erratic producer Arnaud (played by comic Vincent Macaigne).
The film spans some two decades, and is episodic in nature and culturally specific. The first part is subtitled Paradise Garage, and explores the youthful energy of the music scene. The second part, entitled Lost In Music, sees Paul opening a successful nightclub in Paris before he begins to sink amidst the harsher realities of debt, an out of control addiction, personal problems and growing awareness of a sense of failure.
Eden is a tale of lost dreams and failed ambition and the passing of time, but Hansen-Love refuses to treat the material in sentimental fashion. She gives the material a semi-documentary like feel. The tone grows gradually darker. The central character is based on Hansen-Love’s own brother Sven, a former DJ himself who co-wrote the script, giving the material a more personal quality. It deals with following your passions and doing something for love rather than money. Paul’s journey also closely follows the rise of Daft Punk, an influential electronic dance music group, whose music can be heard on the soundtrack.
Hansen-Love’s pacing is fairly slow and the film tends to meander throughout its overly generous running time of 131 minutes. There is a decided lack of urgency and energy, and the film outstays its welcome. There are several extended dance sequences throughout the film, and cinematographer Denis Lenoir, a frequent collaborator with Olivier Assayas, uses natural lighting for the many club interiors, an evocative stylistic choice that enhances those scenes.
The central characters are a little dull, and it was hard to maintain interest in them for the duration of the film. Paul is a thinly developed character, who is largely unsympathetic and unlikeable, and he never seems to age much during the two decades. A non professional actor, De Givry’s only other film appearance was in Apres Mai, but here he gives a naturalistic and understated performance that adds to the realism of the material.
The pulsating soundtrack of electronic pop music has more energy than the film itself, and it will resonate more strongly with certain members of the audience. Eden is decidedly art house in nature and will do well on the festival circuit. It will hold only limited appeal for general audiences though.
Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Cast: Felix de Givry, Hugo Conzelman, Roman Kolinka, Arsinee Khanjian and Greta Gerwig
Releasing in cinemas: 29 June 2015 (limited)
Rated: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television