When faced with the challenge of representing over 20 years of the evolution of “French Touch”, a music genre inspired by American Garage, it can be difficult to know where to start. Directed by french auteur Mia Hansen-Love and co-written with her DJ brother Sven Love, Eden is somewhat an autobiographical film taking inspiration from Love’s personal journey as a Parisian Garage DJ duo through the 90s and early 2000s.
With it’s nostalgic and electrifying soundtrack, Eden is an exploration into the inception, the evolution and the ultimate transformation of the French wave of the 90s Garage movement. The progression of the sound over a period time is thematically personified through the life of Paul (Felix De Givry), a literature student turned half of the DJ duo called “Cheers”; whose fictional name nods to the Parisian DJ’s 90s club night founded by Love, of the same name.
Beginning in 1992, Eden is set over a more than 20 year time frame and cleverly uses the personal struggles of Paul to tie in with the parallel struggles of the music industry. We are first introduced to Paul as he flirts with the sound of birds and flutes, and chases the sound of American Garage through the streets of Paris. His love of music is new and fresh and he is enamoured and tempted by the dynamism and the speed in which the music is changing. We also meet Thomas, and Guy-man in these early days, the duo who go on to be Daft Punk and who undoubtedly influence Paul and shape the soundtrack of the film significantly.
Ditching his honours in literature, Paul goes on to find success with the duo “Cheers” and hits the beats of benchmark moments within the movement both personally through his career and literally with his music, an example being playing at MoMa’s legendary PS1 nights. Broken into two parts “Paradise Garage” and “Lost in Music” there is a clear divide in the narrative of Eden in regards to a shift in beat, tone and rhythm. When putting together the word play of Milton’s Paradise Lost, and indeed the title of the movie itself, the film definitely alludes to echo of a certain downfall.
As much as Eden is about the gain of popularity of the French Touch scene it is also about the struggle of creativity, art and relevance. Paul is not the only creative who is struggling with compromising his art, and we meet an array of creatives who also brush against the temptation of melancholy and drug addiction, debt and personal sacrifice. In saying this though, the “downfall” and the depiction of the club nights are non gratuitous and do not idealise drug taking culture or recklessness. These club night interactions are almost commonplace and are always music-centric, focusing on Paul’s interaction with the and his sensations towards it. Importantly, the film did not show the perspective of the movement through the success of Daft Punk, rather chose to focus on a more local name in the industry. Paul embodies the true trajectory of the Garage movement, and the faithfulness to the sound that ultimately lead to his irrelevance.
Dubbed as the “House movie we’ve all been waiting for”, Eden is more than that. It is a nostalgic and self aware cautionary tale of sorts, warning and detailing the struggle for Paradise and then the ultimate Paradise Lost. Filled with tunes that a bunch of us will undoubtedly recognise, this film is equally for those who remember the movement as for those who are new to the genre. Sampled, sounded and toned to near pitch perfection, Eden is a cathartic exposition of the French Touch movement like no other.
REVIEW SCORE: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running time: 133 minutes
Eden is screening at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne from now until 19th July. For more information click HERE