Something In The Air
Speaking as someone who was in their early 20s at the time that these events take place, I can say that this is the most accurate and engaging representation of that period (early 70s) that I have seen on film. The only shame is that the film goes on too long.
Gilles is a young middle class French kid on the cusp between school and college. It is a few years after the May 1968 student riots and the political landscape is still topsy turvy. Gilles is vaguely radical, keen on women and obsessed with Syd Barrett . But his real passion is for art, and resolving these conflicting impulses is part of what he has to deal with as he makes his way across political, sexual and geographical landscapes, accompanied (mostly in his head) by the beautiful Laure, and in person by the more human and grounded Christine. His friends come and go, his politics shift as he tries to make sense of his priorities, and we follow him down a road travelled by many people of his age.
You may gather from the above that this is not a film in which plot plays a prominent part. Lots of stuff happens – demonstrations, street riots, hippe parties – but it’s all part of an amorphous mass usually known as life. It’s not an A to B kind of movie; which is mostly a strength, apart from the end of the film where it just doesn’t seem to know when to stop.
Films like this (and If…) which feel like the story of your own life, inevitably have a personal charge to them, but I do think that director Olivier Assayas has a special talent. His previous film, Carlos The Jackal, was exceptional, and this is excellent. The soundtrack is eclectic and spot on. The way the characters dress, talk, eat and think all feels authentic and accurate. Details on their own don’t make a film right, but in any period drama, if the details are wrong, its whole sense of credibility can be lost. This film sustains that sense of genuinely inhabiting the recent past, and therefore we can see it both through the eyes of those living at the time and from the perspective of 40 years later.
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