Directed by: Mia Hansen-Løve.
Written by: Mia Hansen-Løve & Sven Hansen-Løve.
Starring: Félix de Givry (Paul Vallée), Pauline Etienne (Louise), Vincent Macaigne (Arnaud), Hugo Conzelmann (Stan), Zita Hanrot (Anaïs), Roman Kolinka (Cyril), Hugo Bienvenu (Quentin), Vincent Lacoste (Thomas Bangalter), Arnaud Azoulay (Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo), Laurent Cazanave (Nico (Respect)), Paul Spera (Guillaume (Respect), Arsinée Khanjian (La mère de Paul), Juliette Lamet (La soeur de Paul), Greta Gerwig (Julia), Léa Rougeron (Théodora), Laura Smet (Margot), Golshifteh Farahani (Yasmin), Brady Corbet (Larry).
It has to be suck to love something and be really, really bad it. Those sad souls on American Idol who have somehow convinced themselves that they have talent at singing, and talk about it as if it’s their whole lives really want it – they just have no skill, so they’ll never make it. It may actually be worse to be merely good at something you love – not great enough to truly become rich and famous doing it, but good enough that you can realistically fool yourself into thinking that if you just stick with it, that perhaps your break will come. They people who are terrible give up on their dreams fairly quickly – and find something else to do. Those other people – who are good, just not quite good enough can waste years. The Coen Brothers Inside Llewyn Davis – my favorite film of the last decade or so – was about a 1960s folk singer like that – really quite good, but when Bob Dylan makes an appearance late in the movie, you know that whatever he has that makes him a star, Llewyn doesn’t have it. And now Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, about two decades in the French electronic music scene, tells a similar story. Paul (Felix de Givry) starts the movie as a teenager – sneaking out of his mother’s house to go to raves, eventually starting his own duo playing “garage” music (yes, they explain what that means, no, I still don’t know) – and spends the next 20 years trying to make it work, and never quite getting there. They are successful enough that they make some money – they can tour, they bring in crowds at clubs, etc. But once in a while another duo – known as Daft Punk – enters the movie, and we see what real success looks like – and it isn’t what Paul and his partner have. But Paul keeps plugging away it – falling deeper in debt and drug addiction, playing to smaller crowds, losing more and more friends and girlfriends, etc.
The major difference between Eden and Inside Llewyn Davis – aside from the music, which couldn’t be much more different if it tried – is the structure of the two films. Like many of the Coen’s work, Inside Llewyn Davis is well structured and thought out – whereas Eden just kind of goes with the flow of the music, sometimes losing its way as it plays things loosey-goosey. There are a lot of scenes that probably could have been shortened here or there – or even cut, as things start to repeat. But then again, I think that’s sort of the point. Like Llewyn Davis however, Paul is more than a little bit of an asshole – although he remains a sympathetic one throughout. Paul is so wrapped up in his old world, he barely notices those around him – friends disappear for a while, returning with new husbands, wives or spouses, and for Paul it barely registers. Even his own partner ends up with a wife and son in one scene – and we realize we have no idea about his personal life, or what this music means to him. Does he know it should be little more than a hobby for them? Because Paul doesn’t – he’s too wrapped up in the drugs – that cause him to miss the music he apparently loves so much. As played by Felix de Givry, Paul is one of those self-involved assholes, you still have a soft spot for. He doesn’t do anything to be mean – he just doesn’t always think things through. Really the only other character who leaves much of an impact on the film is his long-time girlfriend Louise (Pauline Etienne), a beautiful short haired woman who eventually grows tired of Paul, even if she doesn’t stop loving him. Everyone else in the movie drifts in and out of focus depending on what Paul is doing.
The film is directed by Mia Hansen-Love – who delivers on the promise shown in her last two films, Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love. Yes, the film meanders at times – and probably could have used some more editing – but for the most part, I liked the way the film drifts from one scene to the next, as it loses track of time, much as Paul does. Hansen-Love wrote the film with her brother, who based Paul on himself, but the film doesn’t really romanticize his journey, or the time he spent lost in the haze of music and drugs. Eventually even he has to leave that, and enter the real world.