Mia Hansen-Love’s Eden casts a trippy eye over the EDM and underground rave scenes in 90’s Paris. Ostensibly a movie about the booming French house music scene it’s less an account of musical history and more a yarn about misspent youth, thwarted ambition and bittersweet regret.

Hansen-Love co-wrote the script with her brother Sven taking inspiration from his own experiences as a Parisian student. Set against the backdrop of the burgeoning house scene, Paul (Felix de Givry) attends raves and house parties and stubbornly chips away at the coal-face of music-making. Despite warnings from his worried mother, Paul is insistent that fame and fortune beckons, only ever being one great track away from success. Paul finds some measure of success but remains one step behind his Parisian acquaintances Guy-Man (Arnaud Azoulay) and Thomas (Vincent Lacoste) who form the world-conquering duo Daft Punk. As the landscape of music, and house music in particular, begins to shift, Paul fails to keep pace and evolve with the times and consequently finds his star on the wane.

Again, less a snapshot of recent cultural and musical history, more a snapshot of wistful youthfulness meandering into wasted time. Hansen-love highlights a few pivotal moments in historical landscape of the genre: Daft Punk make their tentative, no-frills debut at a house party and remain largely anonymous, being refused entry to nightclubs due to their (at that time) relative lack of star power. Moments such as these feel almost like humorous asides rather than ham-fisted signposts along re-treading of 90’s popular culture.

Eden’s principal feat is that it admirably manages to capture a sense of youthful hedonism along with the first, nervous footsteps of a burgeoning musical movement and the beginnings of cultural paradigm shift. De Givry’s Paul almost seems to float along through the fun and the chaos underlining a possible sense of mediocrity that perhaps outweighs that of wasted potential.

As Paul’s life and career begins to waver and drag along, there’s perhaps a sense that Eden itself feels like it’s dragging its feet as well. As Paul’s career falters, he appears only to be half striving for an outlet for his decent, if not fantastic, talent. To some degree this is reflected in a film that only half strives to provide its audience with anything in its final movements beyond more frothy reverie and dreamy partying. That aside, Eden remains an intriguing and fascinating investigation of personal triumph and failure.

<small>Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Cast: Felix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Greta Gerwig
Runtime: 131 minutes
Country: France</small>

Film Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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