Mia Hansen-Løve’s 2012 film “Goodbye First Love” might have been awash in cliches, but her latest directorial effort “Eden” feels refreshingly free of them. The film follows Félix de Givry’s Paul Vallée, a DJ on the cutting edge of the Paris EDM scene, as success constantly eludes him while pursuing the dream. While Daft Punk makes it big, Paul scrapes the bottom of the barrel just to keep hope faintly visible.
An easy temptation might be to play into tropes about starving artists, yet Hansen-Løve shows no interest in such a story. In reality, the momentum of the film is never predicated on Paul’s forward – or backward – progress. “Eden” is more a landscape of an emerging youth music scene in the 1990s and early 2000s; Paul is merely our access point through which we can experience the soaring heights and crushing disappointments of the cultural moment.
This desire to take it all in gets reflected in her visual schema, too. Hansen-Løve’s shot of choice in “Eden” is the long pan, which allows us to filter and select information from these massive concerts on our own. Rather than dictating the specific details for our focus, she liberates us to find a personal point of interest. The camera becomes like the sober friend at the party, capturing everything on behalf of those who might not remember anything later.
The pacing of “Eden” maintains a similar steadiness, mimicking Paul’s journey rather than the music he creates. Heck, sometimes it even feels like that Hansen-Løve and editor Marion Monnier were on downers assembling the final product. But in their more measured approach, they find an interesting morsel of wisdom.
Sure, Paul never makes it big. Is that an excuse to wallow in self-pity? They seem to argue that it is not. The end result was not optimal, yet the process and the ride were fun while they lasted. Perhaps most importantly, he got to create music that mattered to him. To some extent, isn’t that what art should be? External validation is nice, but it’s nice for movies like “Eden” to remind us that it should not be everything. B+ /