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Alex Reviews Eden - Like Going To A Club Sober

The French DJ film sounds great, but never fully captures the feeling of a rave.

Rating: ˜…˜…˜… Watching Eden, the new film from Mia Hansen-Løve charting the life of one half of a Garage DJ duo from the mid-nineties boom to the modern day, is very much like going to a club. But not one of the raves that is depicted in the film (a comparison other critics have made), but a regular, mainstream club where you go in with high expectations and emerge a couple of hours later having had a fine time, but not without stretches of self-questioning emptiness. The start is filled with naive anticipation at the sheer thrill of the DJ lifestyle. The morning after a party as protagonists reminisce on the night before is crisply shot and there's something giddy about them embarking on an idealistic journey into the world of Garage. The possibilities are endless. Anything could happen. As the film drags on, however, things becomes more static. Our hero, Paul Vallée, becomes a bigger presence on the scene, playing bigger and bigger gigs, before the financial difficulties of the lifestyle catches up with him. Change the record if you've heard this one before.
What Eden gets so right is the feeling of the dance, with the careful sound editing seeing the music jump from diegetic to non-diegetic on a whim. Crowds cheer along, obscuring lyrics with out-of-tune singing and the semi-rhythmic dancing is almost hypnotic. It's great stuff, but as an audience member you're just kinda there, looking in without the thrill. Maybe if you popped an E then the pumping music and scintillating light show would all coalesce into a transcendent experience, but stone-cold sober it doesn't do anything. It can be argued here that Eden is accurately representing the rave subculture, but if a film's trying to replicate the feeling as well as straight realism, that isn't enough. For someone who wasn't involved in all that (aside from that delicate age issue, I'd plump for pub over club every time) and thus lacking the nostalgia for the anglo-equivalent of this French disco, I felt out-of-place, as if at a party where I knew nobody. A big problem is the narrative focus, which jumps ahead in time at random intervals, telling a twenty-year story in a very loose, vignette fashion. Unlike recent hits with this style (see Boyhood), there's not enough to the individual sequences to make them work within a whole. The story is disjointed, and not in a purposeful "Paul is losing his direction" kinda way.
The set-up does pay off somewhat in the ending, a life-dominating come-down where the party becomes a fond memory and attempts to recreate it feel like shallow imitations. Paul finds himself playing weddings and empty New Year's Eve parties, forced to explain what Garage to people who tangentially know Daft Punk (who are the subject of a nice running gag about hidden identity) and attending clubs where the DJ is just a kid on a Mac. It's properly touching, and brings the long-off nineties sensibilities crashing into the modern day. With the aid of alcohol all you'd remember of the night that Eden is would be the euphoric opening and the ending's longing for the past. But without the consumption of any reality-enhancing substance, the emptiness of the night itself can't be ignored. There's a lot of nice elements in here that make Eden enjoyable - one of Paul's girlfriends is writing a story she keeps redrafting, which, thanks to extensive self-criticism, keeps getting cut down ("it used to be a novel, eventually it'll just be a title") - but it never comes together to be a truly unforgettable experience. Have you seen Eden? What did you think? Agree with this review? Share it down in the comments.
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Film Editor (2014-2016). Loves The Usual Suspects. Hates Transformers 2. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle. Once met the Chuckle Brothers.