Un­der­ground scene not all par­adise for French DJ in ‘Eden’

The Washington Post Sunday - - MOVIES - BY STEVE DOL­LAR style@wash­post.com

Maybe the last thing some­one might ex­pect to come out of di­rec­tor Mia Hansen-Løve’s mouth is a para­phrase of Wood­er­son, the Lone Star ladies’ man played by Matthew McConaughey in Richard Lin­klater’s 1990s clas­sic “Dazed and Con­fused.”

Like that ensem­ble com­edy, set in the mid-1970s, Hansen-Løve’s “Eden” is a bit of pop-friendly so­cial an­thro­pol­ogy. “Dazed” fol­lows a group of Texas teenagers on the last day of high school. The French film­maker, in­stead, fol­lows the rise, fall and re­birth of an un­der­ground Paris DJ through 20 years of the elec­tronic mu­sic scene— made sen­su­ally vivid in a sound­track puls­ing with disco, house and garage tracks from Daft Punk, Frankie Knuck­les, The Orb, Jay Smooth and oth­ers.

The char­ac­ter of the DJ, Paul (Félix de Givry), an in­no­va­tor in the French house genre of the 1990s, was inspired by the di­rec­tor’s brother Sven, with whom she co-wrote the movie’s screen­play. “I was fas­ci­nated by the num­ber of girls Sven had,” Hansen-Løve said, speak­ing last fall in an in­ter­view with her brother and de Givry as the film bowed at the New York Film Fes­ti­val. “You couldn’t not re­al­ize that this way of liv­ing had to do with the fact that he was a DJ. You spend your nights at the clubs with the girls. You get older, but the girls get younger.”

Hansen-Løve, now 34, made her film de­but at 17 act­ing in “Late Au­gust, Early Septem­ber,” di­rected by her fu­ture hus­band, Olivier As­sayas.

Af­ter another film, she be­gan mak­ing her own movies and re­leased her first fea­ture, “All Is For­given,” in 2007. “I had a very se­ri­ous life, com­pared to Sven,” she said, liken­ing her lifestyle dur­ing her 20s to that of a monk. “I thought he was very lucky for a long time. This free­dom was beau­ti­ful un­til it be­comes sad.”

Her brother, 42, sat on an ad­ja­cent sofa, where he nod­ded in recog­ni­tion. “I never felt lucky at all,” he said. “I couldn’t build any­thing. Noth­ing ac­tu­ally.”

“The per­pet­ual present can be­come a prison,” the di­rec­tor said. “It’s like ‘Ground­hog Day.’ ”

It takes al­most the en­tire movie for Paul to ar­rive at that self­knowl­edge. The two-part story cov­ers the heady ori­gins and main­stream suc­cess of the mu­sic scene — the club se­quences are con­ta­gious in their ec­static vibe— and also the sus­tained hang­over that comes when the party has moved else­where. Paul’s friends var­i­ously be­come rich, start fam­i­lies, grow up or fade away, but he just keeps spin­ning— with di­min­ish­ing re­turns, a co­caine ad­dic­tion and a trail of ex-girl­friends.

“It’s a film about grow­ing up, a film about the ideals of youth, a film about stay­ing your­self and still be­liev­ing in what you’ve been, what you’ve achieved,” the di­rec­tor said. “It’s about the dif­fi­culty of be­com­ing an adult.”

History, it has been said, is writ­ten by the vic­tors.

The Hansen-Løves de­cided to take an al­ter­na­tive ap­proach by out­lin­ing the story of a mu­si­cal revo­lu­tion as seen by the guy who didn’t be­come a Grammy-win­ning dude in a ro­bot suit.

“I found it more uni­ver­sal,” said Mia Hansen-Løve. “More peo­ple can deeply con­nect with Paul’s story than with Daft Punk’s. Daft Punk are the ex­cep­tion.”

Daft Punk duo Thomas Ban­gal­ter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have funny outof-cos­tume cameos in “Eden.” When they try to get past the vel­vet rope at a night­club, they are deemed to­tally un­hip by a door­man and re­fused ad­mis­sion.

They also were gen­er­ous with the pro­duc­tion, ac­cept­ing a lower fee for mu­sic rights, which helped the film­mak­ers to es­tab­lish a more af­ford­able bot­tom line for sound­track li­cens­ing.

The songs evoke a kind of nos­tal­gia for now-quaint nights of dance par­ties and vinyl on twin turnta­bles. “EDM is over­shad­ow­ing the rest of the good elec­tronic mu­sic,” said Sven Hansen-Løve, “which may be part of the film’s ap­peal.”

The di­rec­tor elab­o­rated: “The mu­sic is so dom­i­nat­ing that when you go back to the source, when it was pure and un­der­ground, peo­ple are at­tracted to that, be­cause they feel like they’ve lost some­thing, in a way.”

Mia Hansen-Løve’s sen­si­tiv­ity to a nat­u­ral­is­tic tone also makes the story easy to tap into, even for those who don’t nec­es­sar­ily share the ex­act same ex­pe­ri­ences. Though the ac­tion is set in Paris and, briefly, in New York, the film could be about any mi­cro­cosm of young up­starts who cre­ate a scene that be­comes big­ger than they imag­ined.

“Many peo­ple say af­ter see­ing the film, ‘It’s my story. You’ve just taken my story,’ ” de Givry said.

Hansen-Løve elab­o­rated on her ap­proach. “It’s a per­spec­tive that’s close to life,” she said. “I do be­lieve in that. It’s not ide­o­log­i­cal. As a film­maker, I find the po­etry in the re­al­ity and not out­side of it.”

The film con­cludes with some ac­tual po­etry: a recita­tion of a verse from Robert Cree­ley’s poem “The Rhythm.” When Paul piv­ots from the turntable to the pen, he be­gins to write. As the film­maker ex­plained, she didn’t want to cre­ate a “bub­ble in the past” but to carry her char­ac­ters through to more-or-less the present mo­ment.

“At the end of script, Paul be­comes a writer, and Sven re­ally is do­ing that now and is get­ting pub­lished,” she said. “The time of the film and the time of real life unite at this point.”

For her part, the film­maker be­came in­tent on fash­ion­ing an elec­tronic-mu­sic epic. De­lays in get­ting fi­nanc­ing only meant more time to write, although ul­ti­mately an even longer film had to be aban­doned.

“The strange thing for me about this film,” she be­gan, “is that for Sven mak­ing the film was about turn­ing the page, but forme it was about go­ing back there. He had had too much of that, and I had not had enough.”

Dol­lar is a free­lance writer.


Gol­shifteh Fara­hani (Yas­min), top, and Ro­man Kolinka (Cyril), left, in “Eden,” a film about the ups and downs of a Paris DJ who was an in­no­va­tor in the un­der­ground French house scene of the 1990s. Direc­torMia Hansen-Løve wrote the screen­play with her older brother Sven, who was a DJ in the same pe­riod. She based many of the scenes on Sven’s ex­pe­ri­ences.

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