Rates: * * * 1/2
Why Did I Watch It? Catching up on the movies on Indiewire’s Top 100 Films of the Decade I missed.
In mid nineties Paris, something cool was percolating: ‘Garage’, a scene where cool dorks played modern disco and stayed out all night to party. Among the players: ‘Daft Punk’, a DJ duo on their way to global superstardom. And in their shadow: ‘Cheers’, a less talented duo on their way somewhere else.
Mia Hanson-Love’s empathetic EDM drama perfectly captures the carefree aimlessness of youth. That time, most people have it in their lives, where one random happening leads to another, where everyone you know knows everyone else, and the future is something you never need to think about.
The movie is divided into two sections. The first introduces us to a swathe of characters, primarily; moody wannabe DJ Paul (Felix de Givry), ebullient wannabe impressario Arnaud (Vincent Macaigne), sensitive wannabe artist Cyril (Roman Colinka), and Louise (Pauline Etienne), a sassy young woman who bounces between them (the wider cast also features Greta Gerwig, in a small part). They form part of a loose, larger crew, a rolling maul that hits the clubs and the parties, pursues music and other artistic endeavours, and dreams of hitting it big.
And this section, as the camera follows the characters through giant Parisian nightclubs, swirls through dance floors to a series of banging tracks, and hangs around after for a late night D & M, really gives you a sense of where these people are at in their lives. It certainly reminded me of my own younger self. There are a number of standout moments; a key one when Daft Punk drop ‘Da Funk’ for the first time at a party and everyone loses their minds (I can remember hearing this track for the first time, in 1997). It is all pretty wonderful.
But in the second half, the other characters recede and we focus on Paul, and this is where the film runs into some problems. After watching De Givry for five minutes, I could guess he wasn’t a professional actor; he is ok in the club scenes, and looks the part spinning records, but he struggles with the more dramatic elements. His performance is very stilted at times, and at others he looks a bit lost. I read back old reviews of this movie and his acting was praised, but I am not surprised to see he has never appeared in another movie.
The story in this section is also less engaging. Paul develops a drug problem, and endures a series of unhappy relationships; both of which are VERY familiar, and De Givry can’t bring enough to them. I ultimately was not that invested in which of his many girlfriends he would decide to commit to – also: why would any of them want him? – and having him finally solve all his issues by becoming a writer, is a very cliched way to wrap.
A movie of two halves.
There is a lot to like, and Hanson-Love is an assured film maker. Visually, her films are stylish without being overt, and she is adept at getting inside her character’s heads, showing their moods and mindset. Unfortunately, in this one, the psyche we investigate is not that interesting. But as a depiction of a scene, of a specific time and a place, it is also first rate.