Sunday, July 12, 2015

Eden










Director Mia Hansen-Love




Writer Sven Hansen-Love
























EDEN                         B         
France (131 mi)  2014  ‘Scope  d:  Mia Hansen-Løve                Official site                

I mean it’s great to dance to, but I don’t know that I would listen to it every day at home. 
―Julia (Greta Gerwig)

Loosely inspired by the biography of Sven Hansen-Løve, the director’s brother and co-writer, the film is told in two parts covering twenty years in the life of a Parisian DJ who in the early 90’s was one of the pioneers of French EDM (Electronic Dance Music), developing a passion for playing garage style techno-music, a variation of Chicago disco-style house music with more soulful rhythms and vocals.  While the director has previously focused upon creative artists, this one exposes both the exhilaration and the underbelly of the music business, showing the toll it takes over time, especially when one remains fixed only on the present, with no thought whatsoever about any of the unforeseen consequences of tomorrow.  Covering the time period from 1992 to 2013, where the first part is called Paradise Garage, and the second part Lost in Music, the film is a portrait of mad obsession and heavy drug use, where people “in the life” are oblivious to anything else that may have happened during this period.  Paul (Félix de Givry), a literature student with aspirations to become a writer, initially discovers the underground rave scene of Paris as a teenager, losing any and all interest in his school work as together with a friend he forms a DJ duo called Cheers.  Dropping out of daytime society, these young artists plunge into the life, an ephemeral nightlife of sex, drugs, and endless music, building their following one set at a time.  Among their acquaintances are a group called Daft Punk, a real-life French electronica group that eventually developed international acclaim, but at least early on they’re just a couple of knuckleheads like the rest.  Paul hooks up with an American in Paris named Julia (Greta Gerwig), but their paths cross in the night, where regrettably she returns to New York. 

Much like her husband, French director Olivier Assayas, Mia Hansen-Løve watched plenty of cinema at an early age and started writing for the legendary French journal Cahiers du Cinéma when she was still in her teens, acting in one of Assayas’s earlier films, Late August, Early September (Fin août, début septembre)  (1998), at the age of 17, while directing her first film ALL IS FORGIVEN (2007) at the age of 25, reclaiming the observational naturalism previously espoused in the films of Renoir and Truffaut, though the detachment of her style may be more closely related to New German and Austria cinemas, featuring people who are all self-absorbed and overly detached, without really getting “into” any of her characters, who are all viewed as if from a distance.  A common theme in her films are unkempt characters who experience an unspoken, interior disappointment or emotional angst that sticks with them throughout their lives, but rather than reveal the source of any lingering discontent, we only see recurring glimpses of fleeting moments, as the director passes right over their situation and seamlessly moves ahead a few years, connecting her characters through some invisible but recognizable emotional thread that remains attached to the core of their souls, never showing any other visible signs of age except this interior connection.

According to Adam Nayman from Reverse Shot, June 18, 2015, NYFF: Eden By Adam Nayman - Reviews - Reverse Shot:

Time is a weapon in the movies of Mia Hansen-Love. The gaping narrative holes in the middles of All Is Forgiven, The Father of My Children, and Goodbye First Love are exit wounds, portals through which key characters suddenly escape (or are forcibly taken), leaving the protagonists who’ve previously leaned on them in varying states of limbo and loneliness. As a narrative strategy, it’s devastatingly effective, if also at this point a little bit familiar. It’s the go-to move of a writer-director whose gift for creating fleeting sensations could also be taken as a sign of discomfort with traditional dramatic presentation. Faced with the sorts of pivotal moments that are usually placed at the center of other movies, Hansen-Love excuses herself from the action, as if she can only truly find her bearings—if not her comfort zone—amidst a bad situation’s aftermath.

Unlike her earlier films, which are largely relationship movies, this is more of a generational movie of the 90’s, much like Assayas’s Something in the Air (Après mai) (2012) was about the 60’s, where rave parties dominate the culture and electronic dance music is featured as the rock ‘n’ roll of our time.  With a soundtrack so essential to the story, the film relies less on any narrative drama and instead becomes more about capturing the texture of the times, creating a mosaic of lasting impressions, using largely unknown French actors, where the director takes a personal story and transforms it into a reflection on wayward youth, lost dreams, and missed opportunities over an extensive period of time.  One of the clever choices made by the director is to return to Denis Lenoir, the same cinematographer she first worked with on Late August, Early September (Fin août, début septembre) , where part of the artistic vision is achieved by the masterful handheld cinematography, perhaps most perfectly expressed in Cold Water (L’eau Froide) (1994), using long, unbroken takes, where the constant camera movement reflects the continuing restless anxiety of the characters.  With so many scenes taking place on the dance floor, the fluidity of the camera is essential, literally floating above before moving in and out of the crowds, where almost by chance Paul meets Louise, Pauline Etienne, a Belgian actress who is a revelation in the role and easily the best thing in the film, who is involved in some kind of argument, but she catches his eye and eventually goes out of her way to meet up with him again.  The dreaminess of their early sexual encounters have a staggering authenticity, in particular the infatuation conveyed by the look in Etienne’s eyes, expressed through body language, glances, and facial expressions, where the audience is drawn to their youthful exuberance.  These brief exchanges reflect the rhythm of the picture, as different people continually move in and out of the frame, where so much of the film is a choreography of motion, from small groups meeting in a café to a sea of bodies writhing to the music on a dance floor.  In this scenario no one is ever alone.  Everything happens in public, where there’s little to no reflection on what occurs, as lives are lost and abandoned in the night, but the train keeps moving day in and day out, dragging along the stragglers who are left onboard.

Telling the story in a series of interconnecting episodes, avoiding heavy drama in favor of ordinary day-to-day activity, having a loose, meandering style that at first feels hypnotic, we watch Paul go from being a hungry, teenage up-and-comer with an insatiable curiosity to one who wields power and influence over the Parisian scene with his weekly party Cheers.  Essentially an impressionistic mood piece, what works are perhaps the unspectacular moments, waiting around until another DJ finishes the set, wandering around looking for a long lost friend, or closing down the club at the end of the night before spilling onto the streets in the wee hours of the morning, eliciting a sensory experience all pumped up on cocaine and a passion for house music.  What has now become the exclusive territory of the ultra-rich was once accessible to the many, where the film certainly exhibits the feeling of being at a party when you’re young, feeling the surge of a crowd singing along to the tracks the DJ is laying down, where the spirit of the moment is simply unmatched by any other, but also the exhaustion of being out all night, and the painful and embarrassing details of relationships that sour.  The film is a refreshingly authentic and naturalistic take on a little-known Parisian underground movement that becomes an intelligent and somewhat bittersweet drama about friendship, fleeting youth, and disappointment, as Paul tours the world, releases his own tracks, meets some of the biggest names in the industry, who play themselves, like Tony Humphries, India, Arnold Jarvis, and Terry Hunter, accumulating a surprising degree of weight in the second half when at the age of 35 he’s still at it, still mixing party music long after the party has ended, finally burning out, mired in drug and financial problems.  The problem with this film, especially relying so much upon physical motion, is the repetition of hand and arm gestures, especially on the dance floor, where the initial euphoric emphasis grows stale and worn out, where at one point, when Paul and Julia meet again in New York after the passage of several years, Greta Gerwig actually uses the arm gestures as a satiric comment on expected dance floor demeanor.  Despite creating an unabashed ode to celebratory music, with a massive soundtrack of 42 dance numbers, becoming what is probably the definitive film on house music, it all runs together after a while, where the viewer is subject to a prolonged period of time that often feels inescapable, where one’s apt to grow tired and feel restless and fidgety, as the pulsating music never changes, even as life goes on.  Delving into the ups and downs of the industry, the film is painstakingly accurate in capturing the love and heartache of dedicating one’s life to following your passion, not realizing how time passed you by so quickly, losing most of your friends in the process, and in the end having so little to show for it. 
         

“Eden” Soundtrack Tracklist
1) Plastic Dreams (original version) - Jaydee
2) Sueno latino (illusion first mixt) - Sueno Latino
3) Follow me (club mix) - Aly US
4) A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Orbital Dance Mix) - The Orb
5) The Whistle song (original version) - Frankie Knuckles
6) Going Round (UBQ original mix) - Aaron Smith feat D’Bora
7) Caught in the middle (Gospel revival remix) - Juliet Roberts
8) Promised land (club mix) - Joe Smooth
9) Sweet Harmony - Liquid
10) Private Number - Catalan FC & Sven Love feat Nicole Graham
11) Da Funk - Daft Punk
12) Solid ground (spensane vocal) - Jasper Street Company
13) Closer than Close (mentor original) - Rosie Gaines
14) The MKapella - MK
15) Get up everybody (parade mix) - Byron Stingily
16) One More Time - Daft Punk
17) Makin’ a living - The african dream
18) Happy song (4007 Original mix) - Charles Dockins
19) Sweet Music - Terry Hunter
20) Unique The cricket song (club mix) - JT Vanelli
21) Odoru (unreleased version) - Watanabe
22) Cheek – Venus (Sunshine people)- Dj Gregory Full length Mix
23) Finally (orignal mix) - Kings of tomorrow
24) Blackwater (string vocal mix) - Octave one ft. Ann Saunderson
25) It’s yours (original distant music mix) - Jonn Cutler
26) Little Girl (version originale) - Viola
27) Shout to the top - The Style Council
28) To be in love (12 inchees) - Masters at work feat India
29) Brotha (DJ spen & Karizma remix) - Angie Stone
30) Just As Long As I got you - Love Committee
31) Jealousy - Lee Fields & Martin Solveig
32) Gyspsy Woman (La Da Dee) (Basement Boy Strip to the Bone Mix) - Cristal Waters
33) Within - Daft Punk
34) Tak a lickin (and keep on ticking) - Paul Johnson
35) Veridis quo - Daft Punk
36) Energy Flash - Joey Beltram
37) Photomaton - Jabberwocky
38) Rivolta (Get A Room! Remix) - Polo&Pan
39) Amazing - Kenny Bobien
40) Lost in Love - Arnold Jarvis
41) We are (I’m here for you) - Kerry Chandler
42) Your Love – Terry Hunter

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Belle Épine












BELLE ÉPINE           B                                     
France  (80 mi)  2010  ‘Scope  d:  Rebeca Zlotowski 

Every generation seems to have a teen angst movie like this one, from THE WILD ONE (1953), REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955), The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) (1959), to the film this most resembles stylistically, Cold Water (L’eau Froide) (1994), where the role of Léa Seydoux as Prudence most definitely resembles Virginie Ledoyen, both 16-year olds with absent parents who go on a binge of inappropriate behavior, where Assayas’s film carries more weight and complexity, as it has a better script and his use of iconic music is more cultural and a reflection of the times, while this first time director has a searing lead performance from Seydoux, a girl who will throw herself at anything in order to forget how empty she feels inside, but her life as well as the secondary characters remain largely undefined, where we only view them in passing instead of feel intensely immersed in their lives and affected by the outcome.  Prudence is largely indifferent to her circumstances, numb from the recent death of her mother, where in an early scene she’s caught shoplifting, meets another petty thief in holding, Maryline (Agathe Schlenker), where perhaps the shot of the film is watching her on her way out the door, as she hesitates before walking outside, remaining hidden behind a wall while the audience sees Maryline join a group of awaiting bikers, where all the action is interestingly kept out of focus as we see a series of guys on motorcycles doing wheelies, revving their engines, just generally showing off in front of the girl before she climbs on the back of a bike and they all ride away, creating quite a spectacle—apparently arousing Prudence’s interest.  Shot by Georges Lechaptois, the film is very much in the style of hand held Steadicam cameras closely following the rhythms and natural movements of the kids, where they have an easygoing attitude about sex and nudity, where frank discussions about sex, especially from the female point of view, are the norm.  If ever there was a movie ripe for the song Dear Prudence The Beatles - Dear Prudence YouTube (4:00), this is it, but sadly it was not to be.   

Prudence lives alone in her parent’s spacious house with her father continually absent except by phone, where her older sister Frédérique (Anna Sigalevitch) keeps an eye on her, but her life is an open door of new opportunities, expressing little interest in school, where she typically finds parties every night instead.  When she runs into Maryline, she expresses an interest in meeting the bikers, who are the kinds of guys more interested in bikes than girls, who will pay attention to girls when they have nothing better to do, but will drop them flat the minute any biking event is happening, where they hold impromptu races every night, some of them daredevil, all illegal, where it’s not uncommon for people to get seriously injured or killed, often due to poor maintenance standards, where the carelessness of one rider will kill another.  Somehow, they’re all immune to even talking about this gruesome subject, yakking and having a good time over beers instead, where together they display a 50’s homoerotic camaraderie.  It’s never made clear what interest this holds for Prudence except there are cloisters of guys, any number of whom would be happy to hang out with her, so she pretty much has the pick of the litter other than Maryline’s guy.  While this is nothing like BAND OF OUTSIDERS (1964), for instance, as it lacks the wild optimism and free-spirited energy and humor of the 60’s and instead projects an endless dreariness and monotony, bordering on fatalism, where kids are simply bored with the same things happening in their lives every day, where the idea of tempting death doesn’t feel like such a bad idea.  Any happiness expressed on the screen lasts only for a brief instant, like a quick thrill, whether on motorcycles or in bed, and then it’s over.             

There’s only the briefest hint of a storyline, clocking in at only 80 minutes, where sexual attraction may hold the audience’s attention briefly, but then it quickly wanes, as Prudence isn’t really interested in any guy, but that doesn’t stop her from having sex, or even from taking unnecessary abuse, as she can barely tell the difference.  There’s a cloud of gloom hanging over her shoulder, where her family is still grieving over her mother’s passing, but Prudence is living like there’s no tomorrow, where her sexual behavior looks like a textbook on how to obtain sexually transmitted diseases.  You’d think high school kids should be smarter and more careful, due to increased awareness and available information, but this girl simply doesn’t care what happens to her.  Despite the downbeat subject matter, the film has a fresh, near documentary style, where the awkward, uninhibited nature of teenagers is always appealing, and a good deal of the film has an upbeat musical backdrop that throbs and pulsates with a kind of electric energy.  Seydoux couldn’t be more committed to the role, where it looks like the part was written just for her, as her smoldering sexuality is always expressed in a low-key, offhanded manner, where she’s comfortable, relaxed, and even nonchalant while naked in front of the camera, but gives an edgy performance of moodiness, forever feeling like she’s lost in a rapidly descending sea-change of self-absorption, where it’s easy to see how everyone misunderstands her, continually thinking she’s selfish, as they’re missing the pain she’s trying so hard to avoid.  Of course the inevitable happens, where the end couldn’t be more predictable, even if told in a starkly unanticipated manner, where despite many excellent qualities in this film, especially the unflinching and naturalistic portrait of a glum teenage girl, the script is too bare-bones, never really fleshing out anyone else’s story or offering any new insights into grief or adolescence.