×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Eden’

Mia Hansen-Love's gently poignant film charts two decades in the French club scene.

With:

Felix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Roman Kolinka, Hugo Conzelmann, Zita Hanrot, Vincent Lacoste, Arnaud Azoulay, Paul Spera, Ugo Bienvenu, Sebastien Chassagne, Laurent Cazanave, Sigrid Bouaziz, Lea Rougeron, Olivia Ross, Pierre-Francois Garel, Claire Tran, Arsinee Khanjian, Greta Gerwig, Brady Corbet, Laura Smet, Golshifteh Farahani. (French, English dialogue)

For Luddites still unconvinced of the legitimacy of electronic dance music, as well as young fans ill informed of its long history, Mia Hansen-Love’s “Eden” would make for a wonderfully eye-opening anchor on a double bill with the Coen brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis.” Though wholly different in tone, style and philosophy, this portrait of a struggling garage DJ as he navigates two decades in the French club scene is similarly sensitive in its evocation of the fleeting joys and simmering disappointments of the artistic life, and just as impeccable in its presentation of music. Admittedly a bit overlong, and simultaneously deepened and distanced by its director’s characteristic emotional reserve, this gorgeously photographed, gently poignant film should still attract plenty of arthouse attention both in France and the U.S.

Starting in 1992, “Eden” jumps right into the decade’s illicit rave scene, where parties were held not in ritzy bottle-service clubs, but rather in basement dives, warehouses and, as the film’s first scene depicts, even harbored submarines. It’s here that teenage literature student Paul (Felix de Givry) first encounters garage, the seminal strain of diva-infused dance music that slowly emanated across the globe from Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage in New York City.

Hansen-Love, who co-wrote the script along with her former-DJ brother Sven, zeroes in on the signature experiences of ’90s club life with expert precision: the struggle to find the venues, the promiscuous blending of styles and techniques that occurred on the decks, and the way lifelong partnerships and passions could be formed through chance encounters with fellow travelers.

Struck with the bug, Paul forms a DJ duo with the unassuming Stan (Hugo Conzelmann), and begins promoting his own parties. His circle of collaborators gradually widens to include depressive poster artist Cyril (Roman Kolinka), Falstaffian “Showgirls” enthusiast Arnaud (Vincent Macaigne), and all manner of hangers-on and girlfriends, the most significant being American expat Julia (a slightly awkward Greta Gerwig), who serves as Paul’s low-key muse, and spitfire Parisian scenester Louise (the excellent Pauline Etienne), who is all too eager to call him on his bullshit.

Meanwhile, two of Paul’s fellow mixers, Thomas and Guy-Man (Vincent Lacoste and Arnaud Azoulay), start to stage their own gigs under the Daft Punk moniker, with their T. Rex-gone-Kraftwerk single “Da Funk” blowing the French electronic scene wide open. Though the pic makes a somewhat too-cute running joke of the duo’s inability to get past nightclub doormen, who fail to recognize them without their masks, rarely is there a distracting “Forrest Gump” effect when the fictional Paul starts rubbing elbows with real-life stars. (Legendary house music figures La India and Tony Humphries also make cameos, as themselves.)

In a sense, “Eden” is perhaps the antithesis of a rise-and-fall narrative, as Paul makes his name as a DJ and nightlife promoter, attains a modest degree of local renown, plays some flashy gigs in New York, and then … stays right in that same comfortable niche for years. Paul keeps the records spinning steadily even as financial troubles start to mount, friends drift away, and his occasional cocaine use starts to become more than a casual indulgence. When he reconnects with Julia, now pregnant and long gone from the club scene, her intended compliment “it’s crazy that you haven’t changed” takes on a caustic tinge. 

None of this is presented with the least bit of melodrama, however, and de Givry keeps his character’s mounting ennui close to the vest. (If he’s jealous of Daft Punk’s fame and fortune, he never lets it show.) The film begins to drag a bit in its second hour, as Paul’s late nights in the club become less an expression of Dionysian freedom and more an obligation; DJing becomes a job in every sense save for the reliable paydays. Yet it seems entirely possible that this is intentional on Hansen-Love’s part, as the audience begins to lose interest in Paul’s music dreams precisely as the romance begins to die for him as well. That’s how quite a few dreams end, after all, not with a whimper but a yawn.

Without overly stressing the period details, Hansen-Love cleverly maps out the passing of time through subtle fashion cues and the gradually increasing use of cell phones. Scenes set in the clubs have a hugely lived-in authenticity, with Denis Lenoir’s photography capturing the delicate interplay of neon light on glassware and gyrating bodies, and Hansen-Love is wonderfully attuned to the palpable electric currents that a perfectly mixed transition can send surging through a dance floor. Peeks behind the curtain at dance-track composition are similarly sharp, especially a scene where Paul agonizes over dozens of kick-drum sounds, comparing them variously to “rabbit farts” and “the invasion of Poland.”

Popular on Variety

Toronto Film Review: 'Eden'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 5, 2014. (Also in San Sebastian Film Festival competing.) Running time: 131 MIN.

Production:

(France) A CG Cinema presentation. (International sales: Kinology, Paris.) Produced by Charles Gillibert.

Crew:

Directed by Mia Hansen-Love. Screenplay, Mia Hansen-Love, Sven Hansen-Love. Camera (color, widescreen), Denis Lenoir; editor, Marion Monnier; music, Daft Punk, Joe Smooth, Frankie Knuckles, Terry Hunter, MK; production designer, Anna Falgueres; costume designer, Judy Shrewsbury; sound, Vincent Vatoux, Damien Tronchot, Caroline Reynaud; line producer, Albert Blasius; assistant director, Marie Doller; casting, Antoinette Boulat, Elsa Pharaon.

With:

Felix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne, Roman Kolinka, Hugo Conzelmann, Zita Hanrot, Vincent Lacoste, Arnaud Azoulay, Paul Spera, Ugo Bienvenu, Sebastien Chassagne, Laurent Cazanave, Sigrid Bouaziz, Lea Rougeron, Olivia Ross, Pierre-Francois Garel, Claire Tran, Arsinee Khanjian, Greta Gerwig, Brady Corbet, Laura Smet, Golshifteh Farahani. (French, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Ford v Ferrari

    Christian Bale, Matt Damon to Campaign in Lead Actor Category for 'Ford v Ferrari'

    Christian Bale and Matt Damon will both campaign in the lead actor category for awards for their work in Fox’s upcoming “Ford v Ferrari,” Variety has learned. “Ford v Ferrari” follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver, Ken Miles (Bale), who [...]

  • Tezuka's Barbara film

    Tokyo Film Festival: Makoto Tezuka Probes Past and Present in 'Barbara'

    The son of the late Osamu Tezuka, who is known as the “the god of manga” in Japan for his innovative and enduringly popular comics, Makoto Tezuka (also known as Macoto Tezka) long ago escaped his father’s looming shadow, carving out a career as a film and animation director. At the same time, he has [...]

  • Cuba Gooding Jr

    Cuba Gooding Jr. Sued for Allegedly Pinching Nightclub Server

    A Tao nightclub server who alleges that Cuba Gooding Jr., pinched her rear-end last year has sued the Oscar-winning actor for sexual battery. Natasha Ashworth had previously come forward to New York law enforcement, though her name had not been released publicly. Gooding was indicted last week on four misdemeanor counts, including two counts stemming [...]

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

  • Luxbox Closes Sales on Venice Film

    Luxbox Closes Sales on Venice Film 'Sole' to U.S., France (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fiorella Moretti and Hedi Zardi’s Paris-based sales agency Luxbox has closed several territory deals on Carlos Sironi’s “Sole,” which screened in Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti section and Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery sidebar. The film just won the audience award at Pingyao Intl. Film Festival in China and a Special Jury Mention for the lead actors [...]

  • Puerto Rican singer Ozuna poses during

    Ozuna Joins Vin Diesel in 'Fast & Furious 9'

    Ozuna, one of Latin music’s fastest-rising stars, has signed with UTA for representation. And to kick off the relationship, the agency has landed him a role in “Fast & Furious 9.” He is also in talks to join the film’s soundtrack. Justin Lin, who directed “Fast & Furious 6,” returns to direct the ninth installment [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content