NEW YORK — To French filmmaker Olivier Assayas, contemporary movies about the 1970s tend to be either sentimentalized evocations of the era or mocking rebukes that caricature the naive idealism, fractious politics, and curious cultural artifacts of the decade. But with his freewheeling new film, “Something in the Air,” a semi-autobiographical work based on his own artistic and political coming-of-age in turbulent early-1970s France, Assayas feels neither nostalgic about the faded era of his youth nor dismissive of its idealistic hopes and dreams.
“People really believed in the future. They really believed in the fact that one generation could transform society and build a new world, which is a crazy utopian idea to think about today,” said Assayas, in an interview last fall while in town for the New York Film Festival premiere of “Something in the Air,” which opened in Boston on Friday. “But I think it’s very difficult to be nostalgic about your own youth. Because youth is frustrating. You’re not exactly sure of your place in society. You’re not sure where you’re going. You have so many doubts and insecurities.”