Something in the Air seduces viewers with breathtakingly fluid filmmaking
Starring Clément Métayer and Lola Créton. In French, Italian, and English with English subtitles. Unrated. Opens Friday, September 6, at the Vancity Theatre
1968. The very look of those numbers sends chills—of both pleasure and regret—for many who recall the days of rage and chaos that followed. Certainly, that’s true of veteran writer-director Olivier Assayas, in autobiographical mode for Something in the Air, a gorgeously shot ode to loving in a dangerous time.
The film uses the May ’68 uprisings in France as a jumping-off point, although its action really begins in early 1971, with helmeted protesters battling brutal riot police. Tousle-haired high schooler Gilles (Clément Métayer) would rather be at the barricades than learning about Pascal, but the friction between politics and art will, indeed, fuel his adult life.
This vaguely formed alter ego is obsessed with a beautiful, possibly cracked young woman (Carole Combes), but he eventually hooks up with an earthier activist, played by Lola Créton, the young cast’s only experienced actor (and it shows).
They follow some “revolutionary filmmakers” to Italy, where arguments about “proletarian syntax” versus “bourgeois sensibilities” perfectly capture that absurd moment when authentic uprisings fell away into fractious in-fighting and thinly disguised self-interest. Just as painfully funny are the boy’s literary arguments with his screenwriter father. (The director’s dad, in fact, wrote the popular Inspector Maigret series for French TV.)
Utilizing period music heavy on English psychedelic folk, the movie assumes knowledge of history and of the challenges of making both art and noise. Some of the subplots in the tale don’t quite convince, but most viewers will be seduced by the breathtakingly fluid filmmaking, built around the wide-screen cinematography of Eric Gautier, who also shot such Assayas landmarks as Summer Hours and the stylish vampire farce Irma Vep.