(Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014)
Hansen-Løve gets moments and scenes so right that it can't help feel somewhat disappointing that she does not yet seem to know how to turn that talent into creating a satisfying feature.
That's not to say Eden is a failure; rather it is frustrating and a little thin, but there are beautiful stretches and lovely moments scattered throughout.
Based to some extent on the career of her older brother Sven as a DJ from the early '90s to the early 2010s, it follows Paul (Félix De Givry, delivering a performance which is either wooden or a great portrayal of a certain brand of bored, searching youth - it's hard to know which) through life in the dance scene in Paris after he and a schoolfriend set up as "Cheers" and begin playing garage classics at raves. By 2000 they host successful club nights, dj in New York, have a radio show, and their old friends Guy-Man and Harold are internationally famous as Daft Punk. But Paul is still a bit of a mess; broke, with a coke habit, unable to sustain a relationship, unsure of what to do next. With nice understatement, Hansen-Løve titles the second chapter of her two part story, "Lost in Music".
The very first scene perhaps establishes what Paul is searching for all those years: after leaving a party on a submarine, he hallucinates a beautiful animated bird in the dawn sky while sitting alone in the forest. After this we rarely get any view into his thoughts or feelings - we see him spin disks and pump his fist to crowds of dancers, and kiss girls and snort and drink and smoke - but what he thinks is rarely obvious.
Hansen-Løve does this sort of thing very well; this film is full of story but has little plot. It never feels contrived or fake (except perhaps for the difficult friend who you know will end up committing suicide from the very first time you see him, an entirely French cliche), and it does feel like life. That makes her brilliant at capturing how moments feel: what it is like to walk into a party with your friends at the age of 19, the surge of euphoria at a great tune on a dance floor, summer in a city, the morning after, the first flush of love. But over the course of two hours and ten minutes, the film feels a bit like an overlong dance remix - a little repetitive, a little shallow.
That could be changed if Paul were more interesting. We see him find and lose women (including an awkward Greta Gerwig), and in the coda, when he is attending a writers workshop, positively bathed in his own melancholy, he seems finally a character worth the attention the film has paid to him. The moment when sober, he watches a pretty girl DJ play a Daft Punk track from a Macbook at a new subterranean club and deals with his own complex feelings about it is as complex as anything in the film, which is always beautifully shot and obviously filled with terrific music.
None more terrific than that of Daft Punk, who ghost alongside Cheers throughout the story, as the only act to truly transcend Dance music as a genre. The moment when they show up at a party and nervously play their new song, "Da Funk", is probably the best in the film. And they benefit from a solid recurring gag, which is as light as Hansen-Løve gets.