Everybody loves a good story; too bad it’s so rarely experienced in life. Instead, real life is more like the ebb and flow of sensation, mood, and desire captured in “Eden” (named after the biblical lost paradise and a ’90s French fanzine), Mia Hansen-Love’s kaleidoscopic, fictionalized rendition of her brother (and co-writer) Sven’s career as a techno music DJ. One minute it’s 1992 and you’re a teenager submerging into the strobe-lit, ecstasy-laced, pulsing ephemera of the Parisian rave scene. Then it seems like just a couple of hours have passed and it’s 2013 and you’re pushing 40 and wasted, racked by regret and flunked aspirations but pumped with memories and still raring to go.
Come to think of it, that kind of life might be better than a story. Along with Bertrand Bonello and his “Saint Laurent” (2014), Hansen-Love has entered the solipsistic time-space continuum of an artistic sensibility and let us in for the ride of a lifetime.
A somewhat less epochal lifetime than that of Saint Laurent, though — like his real-life counterpart Sven, Paul (Félix de Givry) dedicates his life to playing the music of other people. Enraptured by electronic dance music and particularly the more melodic, melancholy offshoot known as French Touch, Paul and his pal Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) form a DJ duo called Cheers after the perennial TV show with its time capsule of a bar. They surge in popularity, make it briefly to New York, and are late to recognize when they have gone out of style. Ecstasy gives way to coke and a destructive habit Paul hides from a long-suffering mother (the great Arsinée Khanjian) who bemoans his lifestyle but always comes through with a check. Transient lovers come and go, including a potential keeper played by Greta Gerwig; someone commits suicide, other friends vanish and reappear. Even the pair of acquaintances who become the popular band Daft Punk periodically cross his path, their success reminding Paul of his own stagnancy and downward trajectory.
The wife of French director Olivier Assayas, who cast her in “Late August, Early September” (1998), Hansen-Love has made a film that resembles in some ways Assayas’s bildungsroman “Something in the Air” (2012) with its elliptical narrative and integral soundtrack. But unlike “Something in the Air,” or even “Saint Laurent,” “Eden” is utterly apolitical. In the opening scene young Paul and a crew of fellow wastrels wander through the darkness and descend into the garish lights and pounding sound of what turns out to be a rave party in a submarine. But Paul walks out and spends that night and every night thereafter alone, in his own airtight shell, as he drifts heedless of the sea around him.
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Peter Keough can be reached at email@example.com.