Review: ‘Something In The Air’

If it weren’t for the fact that “Something In The Air” was particularly well done, it would come across almost like a movie titled “Not Another French New Wave Movie.” There are certain points in the 2 hour movie that feel like they’re almost parodying in the French nouvelle vague cinema movement of the mid-to-late 1960s and early 70s, particularly when the troupe of characters go traveling. Perhaps this was what it was like in 1972 in Paris, perhaps it felt like a parody then, perhaps this was director Olivier Assayas’s intent. But these scenes are offset with a jarring realism of a coming of age story set in a post “May ’68” landscape.

Quick history lesson: there was a student uprising in May of 1968 in Paris that would have been largely successful if not for the lack of organization of its participants. Occupy Wall Street, eat your heart out. The original French title of “Something In The Air” is the somewhat more appropriate “After May.”

“Something In The Air” is set some four years after the events of May 1968 and it shows: in certain scenes, elder hipster types are shown arguing pettily over cinematic intent for a short “revolutionary” movie that the viewer never gets a chance to see. Its here that Assayas manages to work in what little comedic moments there are in the film – it may not be Jim Carrey making a face, but it’s surprisingly effective to laugh at older hipster types nitpicking over whether or not to make a movie ‘that the bourgeoisie will understand.’

Politics is everything in “Something…” – and it’s refreshing to see a political movie that doesn’t pick a side. Ultimately, “Something…” draws the same conclusion that we all (hopefully) make as we grow older, just as the protagonist Gilles understands throughout the course of the movie: there will be no real winner in politics, and that life is much more about the day to day and whether you’re happy. In a small yet heartbreaking scene towards the end, Gilles’ father confides in him about a potentially life threatening disease he may have. More than the preceding 90 minutes of political and social chin-wagging on the character ensembles part, it’s this scene that plays truest to real life and makes it that much more effective in the movie.

“Something In The Air” is a meandering film, one that left your correspondent somewhat underwhelmed until the final act. There is a wide stretch of the film where Gilles leaves Paris to find himself, doesn’t, and a more economical director could have condensed this or at least made the drug taking and sexual exploration a little more interesting than hippies dancing around a bonfire. Yet maybe this was the desired effect. Four years after May of 1968 is still four years after; maybe Assayas’s whole thing was that we were supposed to be bored of the hippie-bonfire-sex-party before we even saw it. But I’m not here to judge intent, merely delivery.

“Something…” is a beautiful movie, one that will surely, as it’s protagonist did, find it’s natural home eventually. Some may see a wanderer without a cause. I see it as a movie that tries to find itself.