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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Assayas' Rich Evocation of the World That Shaped Him, August 6, 2013
Doug Anderson (Miami Beach, Florida United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Something in the Air (DVD)
Something in the Air (aka Apres Mai), 2012: As the French title suggests, this film is less about the spirit of 1968 than about the slow but sure dissolution of that spirit. Assayas sets his film in the Paris of 1971 and focuses on a group of high school students whose main form of entertainment is covering their school grounds with revolutionary posters and graffiti at night. Assayas captures the excitment the kids feel when printing subversive literature and riding their mopeds to the site of yet another of their revolutionary night raids, but its also clear that he views them as hopelessly privileged and therefore more than one step (and social class) removed from the realities of working class conditions and revolution. The film is supposedly about Assayas' own youth but if this is a memoir it is an extremely strange one because we never get very close to the main character, Gilles. Its as if Assayas wants to revisit the era but is hesitant to revisit (or reveal much about) his earlier self. All we ever really learn about Gilles is that he knows that he's less interested in being a participant in the events of his youth and his time period (both of which he knows to be vanishing things) than in articulating a response to life in general (he seems to be living his life not in the moment, but in preparation to become the artist that he knows he wants to be---but he treats this self-awareness as a kind of curse that separates him from his friends). The way Gilles articulates that response to himself is through paintings, but the way Assayas articulates that response to us is through music. Its abundantly clear that the art form that matters most to director Assayas is music (and perhaps what he really wants to do here is not revisit or at least not directly confront his earlier self--that would be too painful, difficult--- but revisit the atmospheres and music that shaped his younger self and laid the groundwork for his current one). This story is not told with words--the characters say very little of interest to each other--- but with images and very carefully chosen musical selections that imbue those images with a very wistful form of youthful longing and tell us exactly how it felt to be a very sensitive/observant/self-aware 17 in 1971. The first selection we hear is from Syd Barrett's The Madcap Laughs called "Terrapin" which plays as we watch Gilles paint alone in his bedroom studio for the first time and the last selection is Kevin Ayer's "Decadence" that serves as the ultimate articulation of what it must have felt like to have been so young in such a time and to have been the only one not to have believed in any of it (in revolution, in love, in youth itself) and yet still be so young and have so much of life ahead of you. If you can forgive the lack of characterization, this evocation of Paris (and other European locales) in 1971 is a visual and sonic marvel. Other songs featured on the soundtrack: "Strings in the Earth & Air" (written by James Joyce and performed by Dr. Strangely Strange), "Know" by Nick Drake, "Abba Zaba" by Captain Beefheart, "Air" by The Incredible String Band, "Why Are We Sleeping?" by The Soft Machine, and "Sunrise of the Third System" by Tangerine Dream.
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4.0 out of 5 stars My appreciation grew on a second viewing, December 13, 2014
This review is from: Something in the Air (DVD)
Almost 20 years later, Assays returns to his own adolescence, which he examined expertly in 1994's "Cold Water". As if to make it clear that he is coming full circle the main character (clearly based on Assayas himself), and one of the key supporting characters bear the same screen names as their counterparts in "Cold Water".

This grew on me considerably on 2nd viewing. Because I knew not to expect a straight- forward plot, but something much more episodic and tonal, I stopped focusing on the story, and took in all the details, and the mood. I found the film much funnier the second time, catching Assayas' gentle mocking of the over seriousness of these petite-bourgeois youth, at the same time that he captures the sad beauty in adolescence's naiveté and out sized passions.

"Something in the Air" focuses on politics, art and sex, taking place 3 years after the May 1968 riots, as the high school kids of that moment try to live in the spirit of revolution that was already starting to fade into factionalism (some of the film's best humor documents the absurdly intense rivalries between groups who mostly share common goals, and the insane parsing of every word and idea to examine if it was the 'right' thing to foment revolution).

There are some truly great sequences. An early scene of the kids battling the cops is exciting, raw and immersive. And there's a sequence at a party that's pretty breathtaking. Throughout, Assayas uses perfect music from the period, without using the same 6 songs every film about the late 60s/early 70s seem to fall back on. If the film isn't quite a masterpiece it is touching, funny and worthwhile work from one of the most interesting voices making films right now, one who can go from the near operatic "Carlos" to the quiet and intimate "Summer Hours", bringing each their own unique style. Assays is a true auteur, but he hasn't let that trap him into a single style or tone.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Liking Olivier Assayas, May 21, 2014
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This review is from: Something in the Air (DVD)
I was introduced to this director through his production of 'Carlos.' I loved the story and the film photography. This movie, 'Something in the Air,' like most art, is a subjective affair. I liked the story because it speaks to me of my younger days. Among the dimensions that fascinated me was the fact that I didn't know the actors, but liked their (natural-looking) performances. The photography was also very enjoyable to me. I streamed this movie through Netflix, but knew that I had to have it 'in the flesh' to play and study.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, August 23, 2014
This review is from: Something in the Air (DVD)
Excellent product and service!
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Something in the Air
Something in the Air by Olivier Assayas (DVD - 2013)
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