Mia Hansen Løve’s idea of an epic is two decades in the French club scene and there’s nothing wrong with that. Eden follows the exploits of Paul (Félix de Givry) and his journey into the lights and sounds of French house music. It is at one end of the spectrum the rise of electronic dance music, but also the blindness of one man and his continued struggles. Although the film is in dire need of an editor to trim the excess, Eden is an emotional and gratifying trip.
Eden starts right at the forefront of the 90’s rave scene, with parties that kids would throw instead of lavish club affairs. Paul has his first taste of garage music here: musical tracks that often featured time-shifted or pitch-shifted vocal samples. He is smitten by the sound and the infusion of music leads to the formation of his DJ duo, Cheers. Working with his partner Stan (Hugo Conzelmann), Paul gains plenty of collaborators. His group of friends seem to come from all circles including a poster artist ,Cyril (Roman Kolinka), another DJ, Arnuad (Vincent Macaigne), and a series of girlfriends. Outside of the scene, Eden also uses these relationships to ground Paul and provide some emotional gravitas among the blinking lights and bass pounding music.
The most important relationships really define the back drop of Eden. In the earliest days of his musical expression, he was in love with Julia (Greta Gerwig), a captivating American woman. She’s in love with her Frenchman, but she also has her fears that his DJ’ing and her writing could never make them happy. When he finally reconnects with her years later, now pregnant and disinterested from going to the clubs, she marvels at how little he has changed. In fact, Paul seems almost frozen into a certain genre and career never developing into anything more. Throughout the years, people come and go, but Paul continues to spin records whether it is out of his devotion to his craft or because he really has nothing else.
The bills continue to rise and what once was a promising career that took Paul to New York turns into a problem. His rocky relationship with Louise (Pauline Etienne) runs parallel to his success. What at one time was filled with joy, soon becomes a relationship that has apparently run its course. Among all the friends and lovers Paul has throughout Eden, Pauline Etienne really shines as Louise, constantly evolving and providing much needed emotional force. Whereas Paul often seems numb to the world due to his cocaine addiction and career, Louise loves this man, but also begins to wonder how long this journey can continue.
While Paul struggles with his own craft, two of his countrymen, Thomas and Guy-Man (Vincent Lacoste and Arnaud Azoulay), start their own duo with the name, Daft Punk. Anyone familiar with the Pop music will recognize the name from their worldwide smash, Get Lucky, but their appearance is mostly played with a nod, wink and little else. Perhaps Daft Punk’s biggest contribution to Eden is successful soundtrack which they personally supplied Mia Hansen-Løve with five of their other tracks. In turn, this convinced other artists to allow their music to be licensed for a reasonable sum and the movie would’ve never been as successful without the large array of musical numbers.
Certainly one of the biggest problems with Eden is the way the film drags to the finish. Once the words announcing part two flash across the screen, one wonders whether or not the picture should’ve been split in two. The audio and visual assault from the garage music is draining and gives the effect of a party that has been going on far too long. Perhaps that’s Mia Hansen-Løve’s grand idea, making the audience feel the same emotional impact of a party that has outstayed its welcome. It just doesn’t work and Eden feels like it should’ve been over far before its somber finale.
Eden is a painstakingly loving tribute to the UK garage music of the early 90’s. While many artists of the movement have never achieved the same success as Daft Punk, the film should fine plenty of fans tapping their feet to the films eclectic amount of licensed tracks. Mia Hansen-Løve could’ve created an epic without the staggering run time, but it still succeeds in celebrating the music, period, and feel of the period.
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Félix de Givry
Film Length: 131 minutes
Release Date: November 19, 2014 (France)
Distributor: Ad Vitam Distribution (France)