“Every substrata of music geekdom deserves a period piece as intimate as Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve’s swan song for the golden era of French house music,” begins Steve Macfarlane at Slant. “Félix de Givry plays Paul, a fictionalized rendition of Hansen-Løve’s co-writer/brother, Sven, first appearing as a vaguely dopey scene kid with a by and large reactive personality. He falls hard as a teenager for garage music—the clanging piano keys, self-refreshing beats, and wall-scaling synthesizer tones—and for the crowd; an early set piece sees a baby-faced Daft Punk world-premiering 1996’s ‘Da Funk’ at a house party. Paul and his friends start a label together; tasked with introducing a song on an underground radio station, he describes ‘The music that we love… between euphoria and melancholia.'”
“Paul and partner Stan (Hugo Conzelmann) find only modest success during their two-decade run,” writes Nick Schager in the Voice. “Hansen-Løve [has] a natural and compelling feel for her milieu, which is marked by drug use, dancing, camaraderie, and an overarching sense of both positivity and possibility. Throughout Eden, Paul snorts much coke, dates and breaks up with many girlfriends (including Greta Gerwig, in a stilted-dialogue supporting part), and spins countless records. However, [Eden] operates at a distant remove its protagonist, much like the crowds that Hansen-Løve shoots in a handful of pans that highlight their joyous bodies and voices coming together in many-as-one kinship.”
“It’s a sprawling canvas compared to the intimate ones of her previous films,” writes Fernando F. Croce in the Notebook, “and it somewhat suffers I think from this narrative expansion: the gentle yet intense emotional modulations from The Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love are still very much palpable here, but the story’s sundry leaps and gaps make them more diaphanous than evocative. There are countless sparks of pleasure all the same, from the handheld camera’s curlicues of blissful movement to the immersive score’s shifting thumps. And above all there’s the electric melancholia of a DJ lost at an unending party, his virtuosic control over the nightclub’s beats contrasting with the torpid handle on his own life.”
“While its fluid visual style sometimes recalls Cold Water and other films by her husband, Olivier Assayas, the filmmaker’s confidence and skill are distinctively her own,” argues Godfrey Cheshire at RogerEbert.com. “She’s one of those directors with an un-showy, unerring sense of where to place the camera.”
“I couldn’t help but be stirred by several the songs,” grants Melissa Anderson, writing for Artforum. “The deep house that [Paul] plays in various nightspots throughout the French capital, like ‘Follow Me’ by Aly-US, was in heavy rotation at the gay clubs in D.C. that I used to frequent during the first Clinton administration. But despite the pleasure of my own nostalgia being stoked—plus my delight at hearing Paradise Garage godhead Larry Levan being name-checked more than once—little in the film, save for its crushing final fifteen minutes, has much heft.”
“This movie’s got a solid 45 minutes of character-driven observation before anything so gauche as conflict is introduced,” notes Jordan Hoffman, writing for Vanity Fair. “The party spaces may be done up in blacklight paint and the Greenpoint/Long Island City lofts from the gang’s New York visit may seem ripped from the pages of Dwell, but the shooting style is purposefully plain. This visual restraint plus the determined slow build toward character arcs may lead some to accuse Eden of lacking punch. Indeed, on more than one occasion I found myself musing, ‘This is a neat party, but when is it going to end?’ But there is something lurking beneath the beat. Days later and I can’t get this movie out of my head.”
“In this film, it’s everything around Paul that changes and outpaces him while he remains resolutely, depressingly, the same person at 34 that he was at 20,” writes Jake Cole at the House Next Door. “This effectively turns the escapist EDM of the film’s soundtrack into an aural prison, a kind of music that celebrates young energy and then starts to mock those who cling to it for too long.”
Hansen-Løve’s “most ambitious film to date favors her signature two-part structure to queasily haunting effect,” writes Sarah Salovaara for Filmmaker. “While the first half lulls you into submission with its bright lights and big promises, the second is a monumental comedown…. Even the re-appearance of Paul’s ex-girlfriend Louise (Pauline Étienne) as his belated escape route into adulthood becomes a harshly empty promise. Hansen-Løve may take her time in tackling the ramifications of her characters’ lifestyles, but the pay off is all the more ruinous for it.”
More from Oded Aronson (Toronto Film Review), Dustin Chang (Twitch), Howard Feinstein (Filmmaker), Ben Kenigsberg (AV Club, B-), Nick Newman (Film Stage, A-) and Vladan Petkovic (Cineuropa). Earlier: Reviews from Toronto.
Update, 10/6: Rummaging through YouTube, the Playlist has put the soundtrack together.
Update, 10/7: “Time is a weapon in the movies of Mia Hansen-Love,” writes Adam Nayman at Reverse Shot. “The gaping narrative holes in the middles of All Is Forgiven, The Father of My Children, and Goodbye First Love are exit wounds, portals through which key characters suddenly escape (or are forcibly taken), leaving the protagonists who’ve previously leaned on them in varying states of limbo and loneliness. As a narrative strategy, it’s devastatingly effective, if also at this point a little bit familiar. It’s the go-to move of a writer-director whose gift for creating fleeting sensations could also be taken as a sign of discomfort with traditional dramatic presentation…. [T]he big difference—and the big leap—of Eden, which doesn’t have a temporal hole at its center but rather a character through whom time passes like a sieve.”
Nick Newman recently interviewed Hansen-Løve for the Film Stage and got her talking about her next project. “Her admirers will hardly be surprised that this currently untitled effort continues a trend (one she self-deprecatingly calls ‘really annoying’) of dramatizing the life of someone who’s influenced her own. Following examinations of a brother… and a key figure in her development (Father of My Children is based on producer Humbert Balsan‘s suicide), the next point of focus is Hansen-Løve’s mother, a philosophy professor. This ‘portrait,’ scripted last year, is said to have grown during the wait for Eden‘s financing…. Better yet that it may not be a great deal of time away: while no financiers were mentioned, she hopes to begin production next summer.”
Update, 10/8: For Reverse Shot, Adam Nayman talks with Hansen-Løve about “her work on Eden, especially its collaborative aspects—from her cowriting the screenplay with her brother, Sven, to the input of cinematographer Denis Lenoir. We also talked, more than just a little bit, about Inside Llewyn Davis, another film about pop-music narratives of success and failure.”
Updates, 10/15: David Ehrlich talks with Hansen-Løve for the Playlist.
And here’s the new international trailer (no subtitles):
Update, 11/10: Girish Shambu finds that “Eden is composed of short, low-key scenes: one thing happens, then another, then another—but the film accumulates little dramatic impact as it unfolds in time. It makes for a certain monotony, a lack of intensity. But music goes a good way to restoring life to the film.”
Update, 11/13: The AFI interviews Hansen-Løve.