‘Eden’

In ’90s Paris, a young man’s life pulses to the beat of elec­tronic mu­sic.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - KEN­NETH TU­RAN

Though her rep­u­ta­tion in this coun­try is con­fined to cinephiles, Mia HansenLove is one of France’s top young di­rec­tors, and her fourth film, “Eden,” show­cases her ex­cep­tional skills in an un­ex­pected way.

Cer­tainly on the sur­face, “Eden” sounds like a film with a very lim­ited au­di­ence. Co-writ­ten by Hansen-Love and her brother Sven and based on his per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, it is a de­tailed ex­am­i­na­tion of more than 20 years in the life of a French elec­tronic mu­sic DJ in the Daft Punk era who spe­cial­ized in a sound char­ac­ter­ized as “New York garage with a Parisian twist.”

But while “Eden’s” story is def­i­nitely site-spe­cific, a pop saga told from the in­side that con­veys con­sid­er­able in­for­ma­tion about sub­jects like the dif­fer­ences be­tween techno, house and garage mu­sic, Hansen-Love’s gifts bring the film to another level as well. As her pre­vi­ous fea­tures (2007’s “All Is For­given,” 2009’s “Fa­ther of My Chil­dren,” 2011’s “Good­bye First Love”) demon­strate, Hansen-Love is an as­sured and nat­u­rally em­pa­thetic di­rec­tor who spe­cial­izes in mak­ing us care more about her char­ac­ters than seems likely at the out­set.

Just as the film’s ti­tle ref­er­ences two things, an early French mu­sic fanzine and the in­no­cence of the orig­i­nal Gar­den of Eden, so “Eden’s” en­tire story is a clas­sic tale of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence, of a par­tic­u­lar gen­er­a­tion that is both the same and dif­fer­ent from those that came be­fore.

We fol­low sev­eral peo­ple on this epic jour­ney, but most es­pe­cially a young man named Paul (Félix de Givry), who is pas­sion­ate about this mu­sic and imag­ines him­self hav­ing a ca­reer as a DJ at clubs and raves.

What will Paul and his friends make of their lives, their re­la­tion­ships? Will they cap­size on the jour­ney or sur­vive? It is the birth and fate of a dream that we fol­low here, and few di­rec­tors match Hansen-Love’s abil­ity to make us care about those ques­tions.

Treat­ing view­ers like time trav­el­ers from another era (which, in ef­fect, we are), “Eden” sim­ply drops us into this scene with­out any pre­am­ble, be­gin­ning in Novem­ber 1992 with a clan­des­tine rave in, of all places, a moth­balled sub­ma­rine docked some­where out­side of Paris.

“Eden’s” first sec­tion, “Par­adise Garage” (named af­ter the pu­ta­tive birthplace of garage mu­sic), in­tro­duces us to Paul. He’s liv­ing at home with his mother and fam­ily and nom­i­nally in school, though mu­sic is what he and friends like the caus­tic car­i­ca­tur­ist Cyril (Ro- man Kolinka) and fel­low DJ en­thu­si­ast Stan (Hugo Conzel­mann) re­ally live for.

Hansen-Love is es­pe­cially good at cap­tur­ing the mood of this youth­ful time of life: the ex­cite­ment of be­ing young and on the in­side of some­thing cool, feel­ing that this kind of mu­sic is the only thing keep­ing you alive and that no one un­der­stands it as you do. Paul and Stan form a DJ combo they call Cheers, be­gin to play at par­ties and garner at­ten­tion. Paul even has a brief af­fair with an older Amer­i­can woman named Ju­lia, who awk­wardly calls him “my su­per-hip school­boy.”

“Eden” pro­ceeds to check in with Paul and his co­horts ev­ery two or three years, play­ing lots of mu­sic (the track list counts 42 songs) and fol­low­ing the course of their ca­reers as well as their per­sonal lives. Paul, for in­stance, re­bounds from Ju­lia’s re­turn to New York by hook­ing up with the feisty Louise (Pauline Éti­enne).

A ca­reer high­light for Paul is a 2001 trip to the U.S., where he gets to DJ at a big show at New York’s PS 1 and meet one of his idols, garage pi­o­neer Tony Humphries, who has a brief cameo.

“Eden’s” sec­ond part, called “Lost in Mu­sic,” starts a dozen years later and deals, as might be ex­pected, with is­sues that arise when what you start out do­ing for love ends up be­ing done for money. No mat­ter what is go­ing on, Hansen-Love’s tal­ent for bring­ing us in­side a spe­cific world makes “Eden” an ex­pe­ri­ence we all can con­nect to.

CG Cin­ema / Broad Green Pic­tures

AN AS­PIR­ING DJ, played by Félix de Givry, nav­i­gates mu­sic and love in “Eden.”

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