Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Olivier Assayas' follow-up to 2008's "Summer Hours," "Something In the Air (Apres Mai)" is also a rumination on art, youth and the passing of time but takes us to 1968 Paris where social unrest and political revolution are certainly what's in the air. It's a film that perfectly captures the look and mood of the era, not only in the building tension of a revolution but even more so the shapeshifting passions and desires of the group of teenagers at the film's center.

The original French title of the film is "After May," which is more fitting because it follows Gilles (Clement Metayer) just after he's finished high school. In light of his community's political climate, he's torn in which direction to take his life: radicalism or artistic expression. These two opposites are physically represented in two women, Laure (Carol Combs) and Christine (Lola Cretin). Laure shares Gilles' spirit for becoming an artist, but she's moving away. And once he gets more involved in the youth revolution movement, he confides in Christine as a new love interest choosing the path of radicalism. In one of the film's most striking scenes, however, Gilles returns to Laure where she's caught up in a ill-fated romance with an older man with whom she takes heroin and lazes around a cottage house, a dreamlike delusion outside reality.

To what impact does an artist have on society or a small pact of revolutionaries? This is what Assayas contemplates through his self-announced semi-autobiographical story, a largely thematic but still tastefully understated exploration that is wry and critical in its view of youthful passions and aspirations. The film starts out very tight and politically-minded as we witness a renegade team of teenage revolutionaries run through the streets escaping the police, many of them getting beaten along the way. Another scene follows the teenagers during a nighttime vandalism run that puts one of the youth in trouble, which sends them all fleeing away from the city.

From here, the story starts to wander and drift much like its central characters, a cast that becomes more robust including an American dancer who gets lost in her own ambition. The friends, each going their own direction, begin questioning their activism versus the pursuit of their art. The most focus, however, is on Gilles as we watch his decisions represent this larger movement, a larger ideal of how much art can affect politics and vice versa.

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