Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve, 2015)

Although steadfast in scope, Eden sports a frequently slight narrative that belies the high-energy genre of music it spotlights. As a semi-autobiographical account of co-writer Sven Hansen-Løve’s stint as a DJ for the better part of two decades, protagonist Paul (Félix de Givry) is the film’s primary focus as one-half of the Parisian garage outfit Cheers. Coasting breezily through life naively dependent on his passion as a means of financial gain, Eden simultaneously dissects the personal relationships – no matter how tenuous – that help shape Paul as an individual unsure of his future in the midst of ongoing existential tumult.

I’ve seen this film described as “directionless” in the vein of typical biopic fare, which isn’t far from the truth given how modest Eden‘s core focus is. To elaborate, Paul as Eden‘s subject is nothing more than a particularly hip everyman at the forefront of a fad despite the genre’s sustained popularity well into the present. He’s amiable; boyish even by way of standard charm but prone to selfishness and not much of a domineering presence outside of a niche music scene. Even still, Hansen-Løve’s approach is refreshingly intimate as it sidesteps the pratfalls of more prominent Hollywood fare.

In fact, the film’s adherence to its subject’s unglamorous, pseudo-celebrity lifestyle that exudes a sense of self worth investing in, not to mention the comparably authentic way in which Paul’s life progresses. The proceedings admirably avoid melodrama in this regard, yet there’s something about Eden‘s deliberate pacing that left me wanting more as its gratuitous length becomes especially palpable during the home stretch. Whether it’s Paul’s arrested development well into his adult years or a general banality of narrative, the initially impressive segues into something considerably less compelling.

Compared to so-called awards bait, Eden is far and away more admirable despite purposeful but sometimes ineffective low-key sensibilities. Intimacy of focus aside, the appropriately pulsing club sequences, corresponding soundtrack and adherence to Paul’s frequently fallible persona help make Hansen-Løve’s latest feature something to recommend. It may peter off once Paul’s redundant existential pining for commitment and success are made too abundantly clear, but all in all, Eden is simply a delightfully subdued and personal piece of filmmaking that alternately sheds light on a piece of musical history and an individual that helped perpetuate if not shape it.

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