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  • 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.
  • In 1968 in Paris, France, the something in the air was revolution. In March of that year, a single spark began a revolt when a small group of students at Nanterre University took to the streets to protest conditions at the University. By July, workers had shut down Paris with a general strike in which ten million workers took part, occupying factories and marching in solidarity with students, who occupied the Sorbonne. The objectives were self-management by workers, a decentralization of economic and political power and participatory democracy in the factories and universities. By the end of July, the government of the autocratic Charles de Gaulle was teetering on the brink of collapse.

    The impact of the 1968 near revolution is still being felt three years later in February, 1971 when Olivier Assayas' semi-autobiographical Something in the Air opens. A demonstration is held at the Place de Clichy in Paris as a teacher in a high school class reads a passage from Pascal, "Between us and Heaven or Hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world." At the same time, the brutal police repression of a young protester, Richard Deshayes, takes place in nearby streets demonstrating the immediacy of Pascal's words. Deshaves loses an eye after being hit in the face by a smoke grenade, and the poster of his bloody head is shown as a symbol of resistance throughout the film.

    Something in the Air is about coming-of-age and the awakening of conscience, and Assayas has the courage to remind us of the need to align our actions in life with our beliefs and conscience. Events are shown from the perspective of Gilles (Clément Métayer), a 17-year-old high school student who is a prospective filmmaker, painter of considerable talent as well as a political activist. Gilles and his friends Alain (Felix Armand) and Jean-Pierre (Hugo Conzelmann) are activists in the political arena, working to create a better society. They distribute leaflets, contribute articles to left-wing magazines, and spray paint graffiti slogans on the walls. After a security guard is seriously injured by a Molotov cocktail thrown by one of the protesters, however, Gilles and his new girlfriend Christine (Lola Creton) leave the country for Italy.

    On the trip with a group of activist filmmakers, Gilles is told that he can only borrow a camera only if he does agitprop because "we don't do fiction." At a showing of a revolutionary film, a discussion follows about whether to use conventional style or "revolutionary syntax" to get their message across. Although the film is about ideas, we never know exactly which of the student activists are Anarchists, Trotskyites, Maoists, Marxists, Stalinists, or democratic Socialists, but it hardly seems to matter. What makes the film so unique is not only a script that is highly literate but its portrayal of young people with respect for their minds and an appreciation of their dignity and commitment, attributes normally not seen in films about the counterculture. Author Anne Morris said, "The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love."

    Assayas correctly notes that, in addition to advocating political and economic change, the protesters also want to change outmoded social conventions, particularly the stranglehold of the scientific/materialist paradigm and the puritan sexual mores that place barriers on spiritual growth and full self-expression. What comes across as special, even more than ideas about filmmaking or political theory, are the relationships they have with each other that express their openness and love. The film also blends idealism with music in a way that the songs of Syd Barrett-era, Booker T & the MG's, Nick Drake, and an inspiring rendition of a Phil Ochs song by Johnny Flynn feel organic to the scenes in which they are used.

    When the students ultimately gain a sense that life is governed by practicality as well as idealism, they gradually drift away to parents, jobs, school and the careers that will shape their lives, but they have already made a difference. Though their immediate objectives were only partially met, later in the year, uprisings began in Poland and Czechoslovakia that would have a profound effect on the Soviet system, protesters marched at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, rioted at Kent State, and the brutal war against a small, peasant country came to an end several years later.

    Though the film is more about personal goals and ambitions than revolution and Assayas does not shed much light on the causes that the students fought for, no film in recent memory has presented such an authentic view of the immediacy of the period as Something in the Air. The feeling of change is electric and its mood is brilliantly reflected by the film's lack of cynicism and condescension. Assayas brings us back to a time when everything seemed possible and people were truly young because the world, maybe for the first time, began to dream of what it would be like to be young with them.
  • Olivier Assayas's film 'Something in the Air' is an affectionate, although not uncritical, look at the lives of young French radicals after 1968. Watching it, you get an interesting sense of an era when students were interested in something other than building their careers (although the protagonists don't all completely abandon their bourgeois dreams); there's also the contrast between their profound political beliefs, and the feeling that their beloved freedom is basically the freedom of being young and moneyed - the revolution as a gap year, so to speak. The way that a life spent chasing experience ultimately does not build the foundation of lasting relationships is also well-conveyed. Overall, the cast are a little too beautiful - who wouldn't be a revolutionary when the benefits were so obvious? - and if the film has a serious weak-point, it's in not fully explaining quite why youth was drawn to the counter-culture except in a vague, spirit-of-the-age type way. A final quibble - the English translation of the French title (Apres Mai) is an awful one, better befitting a light romantic comedy.
  • Just watched the movie yesterday, and for those who are interested in the high school movement of France in the early '70s and expect the movie to have a say about the topic, it would be a disappointment. Therefore, alter your expectations towards an autobiography of a young artist who is in pursuit of love, his ideals and independence.

    The opening of the movie is promising with protests, group of students clashing ideas and then acting based on those ideas. You can actually sense that there is something in the air which is obviously the belief in the revolution. Yet later, it seems quite undecided whether to focus on the aspect of revolutionary ideas or on the personal lives and thoughts of the characters. Both topics can be processed in a movie, however in this one both aspects seems inconclusive.

    Also what I see missing in the movie is that all young revolutionaries were not faced a tough life or living a life that is rather comfortable. They want to change things but it seems they are not sure what they want to change or how bad things are for the working class. I am not expecting a person of that age to be fully aware of the situation but I wondered how would they react in a desperate situation. They do not look unhappy with their life.

    If I had watched the movie with different expectations, I would have enjoyed it more. It is still likable but not satisfying.
  • A miniature portrait of the student movement, that focuses around a group of few passionate youngsters.

    They do not just want better rights and more acknowledgment; they are prepared to fight in order to get it. It feels the world is at a turning point and so are their lives. If they do not fight for a better world, then what is it all for?

    The struggle begins full of zeal, passion and fervour. The time, being unforgiving to all, changes everything. The views of society change, ideals and lives. Through fighting, facing consequences and experimenting with free love and drugs our heroes find themselves facing new realities and challenges. The goal seem to have been achieved, what now? The existential question in everyone's minds.

    Though low key, it has enough youthful energy that exhumes passion, inspiration that can stir the audience's thought process expecting from all of us to not lose sight of our ideals, the very thing that makes us human.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I don't have a lot to say about 'Something in the Air', mainly because it doesn't seem to have a coherent plot - perhaps appropriately, given that it's about a bunch of anarchists. A group of French teenagers in the 1970s sit around in smoke-filled rooms thinking too much, occasionally carrying out acts of violence in the anarchist 'cause'. As time passes some remain committed to the cause, while others, though still professing belief, find their personal lives and ambitions eclipsing their anarchy. If you're in the right mood for this type of film it certainly hits the spot, and there's a very amusing scene where one of the young men gets a job at Pinewood Studios in the UK and finds himself working on a film involving Nazis, sea-monsters and a scantily-clad cavegirl - a far cry from the experimental (read: commercially unviable) cinema to which he'd rather devote his time. Welcome to real life, mate!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there will be no future for humanity, because the extermination of humanity is the ultimate concomitant of capital's destructive course of development." - Ivan Meszaros

    "The majority is always on the side of routine and immobility, so much is it unenlightened, encrusted and apathetic. Those who do not want to move forward are the enemies of those who do, and unhappily it is the mass which persists stubbornly in never budging at all." - Gracchus Babeuf

    Olivier Assayas dedicated a 2005 Cahiers Du Cinema article to the widow of Guy Debord, the famous French Marxist philosopher. In the article, Assayas discusses the post 1968 revolutionary vanguard and his involvement in it. Assayas' films have themselves become increasingly political, moving from trashy meditations on global capitalism ("Boarding Gate", "Demonlover", "Summer Hours") to bio-pics on political terrorists (2010's "Carlos").

    Inferior to all these films is Assayas' "Something in the Air". Evocative of Bresson's "The Devil Probably", Godard's "Le Chinoise", Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point", Bertolucci's "Dreamers"/"Before the Revolution" and Fassbinder's "The Third Generation", the film watches as a student named Gilles finds himself caught up in the political turmoils of 1960s-70s France.

    Like most of the aforementioned films, "Something in the Air" is about political disengagement. Whilst radicals, students and workers take to the streets, young Gilles heads off into other directions. But Gilles doesn't simply disengage from politics, but sees such disengagement as the ultimate manifestation of his own free-will, freedom of expression and personal identity. This "identity" is mostly aligned to sex, wistful longings for past lovers, paintings, a desire for celebrity and trashy B movies involving Nazis and dinosaurs. For Gilles, activist movements impose their wills, doctrines and mantras too forcefully upon him. They leave no room for deviation, which Gilles, an artist, finds constricting.

    "Something in the Air's" Gilles character was based on the defining years of Assayas' own adolescence. Early scenes watch as he mingles with radical film-makers (resembling Godard's Dziga Vertov Group), whilst others see him drawn to both the romance of revolution and the revolution of modern romance. But he's unable to commit to either, interested only in dabbling in things in the spirit of youthful experiment. Assayas encapsulates Gilles' personality early by having him scratch an "anarchist" symbol whilst a teacher delivers a lecture on orthodox Marxist history. The point? Gilles is his own man. An individualist! Assayas doesn't condemn or praise this, but the film nevertheless makes it clear that the "thing in the air" has shifted from breathless excitement to nothing less than the death of radicalism, the next generation torn between solidarity and personal ambition, selflessness and self-obsession. As French philosopher Regis Debray would say: "the Great Day has been and gone."

    7/10 – Like Bruno Dumont's "Hadewijch", Assayas' film owes too much to Bresson's "The Devil Probably". See too Kelly Reichardt's "Old Joy". Worth one viewing.
  • cnewf12 June 2013
    The filmmaker clearly lived through this period at about the same age as the characters, so I don't understand why the film is both slow and superficial. The (post) Sixties here is fight the police, shout slogans at a meeting, publish a newspaper, sit in a cafe, do some art, read a book about Mao, meet a girl in the woods and take her clothes off, recite poetry out loud, vandalize your school, have another meeting, go to Italy to meet foreign girls, take their clothes off, make radical films, etc. etc. Except no one is having any fun. Not a single person in this film enjoys anything ever about their free and mobile lives-where unlike now people like them age 20 all seem to have plenty of money. No one even smiles when the see a friend they haven't seen in months -- it's the French parodying the French. I won' to bore you with the reactionary representations of political philosophy, drugs, eastern mysticism, or union politics, all of which are brainlessly dismissed as pointless. The core characters drift as though to be post 1968 meant you lived under a shadow. some kind of paralysis. The exposition of character is weak and many plot threads are just dead ends. Our hero keeps shuffling forward, perhaps as a tribute to a film industry in which he becomes an intern that is even more cynical than the non tribute to 60s politics. Nothing seems to have any meaning--their art, painting, dance, radical filmmaking, relationships, journalism: it's completely wrong to hollow the period out like this.

    If you like this period, and like French film as I do, see J'aime regarder les filles from 2011 I think- the only stupid part of that film is its title. Set in 1981, it's a much richer description of what happens with 20 year olds from different sectors of French society collide during the run- up to Mitterand's election.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Others have gotten into the film with further depth, but to add my two cents won't take long. It's more of a general review.

    This is a film that had promise (perhaps like the lives of the students), but then really didn't go anywhere (like many lives)...perhaps that was the point, but it didn't make for a compelling film throughout. I'm giving it a 7:

    + 8 for intention/promise

    • 6 for overall execution

    What I liked: characters who were finding themselves/evolving, challenging the status quo, and were willing to fight for what they believed in drew me in. The art direction gave the film a consistent and believable look and feel.

    What I didn't like: lack of a strong narrative or focus throughout the film made it hard to stay engaged; some of the music was just odd at times; the characters' motivations were hazy and malleable; and it was a bit long for what the film ended up being (it could have been better if shorter and more neatly wrapped up or much longer and followed the characters years down the road; the length didn't help the film).

    If you like French films, you'll probably enjoy this to some degree as I did. If you like the constant, mindless action, tight editing, fast dialog and vapidness of most Hollywood films, don't bother.
  • An experimental coming of age drama that has a good story to tell, but lacks a narrative. Director Olivier Assayas undoubtedly has talent (Carlos), but this film is definitely a misstep in his career.

    "Apres Mai", french for after may. Set after the May 68 riots and their immediate aftermath. Students keep protesting and then partying, sometimes they're complaining about how unjust everything is for them and other times they're in Italy getting high.

    It starts out good with fast paced editing, a moving soundtrack, great cinematography and a couple of rebel students that made me feel like it was going to be something similar to "Carlos". The movie lost its direction after the first 30 minutes or so and wandered onto other less interesting themes like the hippie culture.

    I'd recommend it to people who liked movies similar to "Not Fade Away", "The Dreamers", or "Summer Hours".
  • "Something In the Air", the latest film from French auteur Olivier Assayas feels like his most personal since "Cold Water" in 1994. Both films feature a young man named Gilles (this time played by Clement Metayer) acting as the surrogate for Assayas himself, tantalizingly poised on the precipice of awkward adulthood. But where "Cold Water" dealt with interior feelings of belonging and amour fou (in the relationship with beautiful but dangerous Virginie Ledoyen), the stakes are a bit higher in "Something In the Air". Set in Paris after the May events of '68, this Gilles and his close sect of friends find themselves mixed up in violent student activism… so violent that they accidentally hurt a security guard during a routine vandalism attempt and are forced to split up in hiding. And while the first third or so of "Something In the Air" deals with these subversive acts of revolution, the real thrust of Assayas' narrative kicks in after this action, setting up Gilles, Christine (the wonderful Lole Creton), Alaine (Felix Armand) and their various lovers to seek out their own paths in life. The title, while initially evoking the revolutionary scents in the air, subtly changes to denote the forks in the road each individual takes with their lives. Assayas handles all this reverie beautifully, never losing his gentle touch on relationships and staying to true to the way he continually crafts a knockout finale. It may not all be 100% accurate, but the way in which Gilles the man on screen become Assayas the filmmaker is still precise, loving and attuned to the nuances of everyday emotions.
  • This is all the summary you need. Seriously, all stereotypical things you'd expect to see in a French movie, was there.

    Cliché relations? - Check

    Smoking all the time? - Check

    Painting? - Check (so much painting)

    Eating at cafés? - Check

    Just a long montage of the "happiness-model"? - Check

    Croissants? You name it, it's there!

    I have to say though that the beginning of the film was really interesting. I thought that it'd be a movie about people who fought for what they believed in and the character development along the way. Boy, was I wrong!

    It quickly lost its pace and never mentioned what happened in the beginning ever again. Nothing they ever did had any actual consequences later in the movie which made most actions seem pointless.

    Don't forget the actors who couldn't show any passion for their characters interests what so ever. It wasn't so convincing when the girl said: "I still love you" when her face looked as numb as if she had been slapped in the face all day. After the movie, I would nominate Kristen Stewart for an Oscar.

    I almost forgot to mention the main character. His face expression can be best summarized as this: Depressed, slightly smiling or neutral. But for some reason he was quite popular and painted a lot. I still don't know if he liked to paint or not (because of his unengaged acting).

    That is my review and why I so generously gave it 3/10 stars.
  • k_laxo23 September 2013
    Great movie that does put you in the shoes of those 60 and 70's idealists and lets us contemplate the beauty of their existence, and I mean the kind of movie like Melancholia, which makes you feel things from such a different perspective. The movie does not deal directly with contemporary contradictions of idealism, but it is undeniable that this issue awakens in us when witnessing the characters strife for integrity. It somewhat scented like Spike Lee way of proposing a theme for me. It weaves some plots which are left in low key, just to draw our attention to what really matters for the narrator. We are dealing naive yet sophisticated people - which is the beautiful paradox of their being. I must say that I didn't like a pair of choices like that insertion of Laura when Gille is reading her letter in the subway. For me it breaks the harmony, it is kind of out of the blue solution - though it has its coherence, and, again reminds me of Spike Lee's Jungle Fever.
  • Gilles is an interesting character, a political activist studying to be an artist. But it's frustrating that beyond his political beliefs we get to know little about him. Conversations are short. What do any of the people feel? There are a lot of opinions and judgments made about society, authority, each other - usual for French films. But left me unsatisfied. Warning: Ironically, be prepared to meet many dissatisfied people, even majorly unhappy ones, during the course of this film. Wonderful evocation of times ('70s) and attention to detail though.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I was excited for this film as it started. I could genuinely feel the angst and tension as they rioted and was eager to learn why and root for them or at least watch them engage in something passion-driven. Long story short, despite this being the least clear/focused/pointed film I've seen in a decade, how&why I forced myself to finish it is the only real mystery. It felt longer than most six hour trilogies, than twelve hour miniseries all watched in one marathon take, than reading War and Peace which while grueling at least had meaning and moved me. Save yourself. If you feel it slipping, not gripping you, don't waste your time. Once it starts losing focus it never comes back. I even rewound it a few times to be sure I hadn't missed anything as my mind inevitably felt like I was on opiates, not the film's experimental lost souls.

    Before the first thirty minutes were over, I was feeling TIRED. How I went from energetic and engaged to feeling like someone was looping a distorted electric guitar note as people walked, sat, stared blankly, showed each other random "art" for praise, discussed anarchy in the most tedious, passion-void way imaginable, and drilled more dull monotonous drivel into my ears than I ever should have accepted-I had thirty other choices on hand AND the web for thirty thousand more, yet I devoted two criminally slow hours to it and left entirely unfulfilled-annoyed that this director took beautiful scenery and great filters to NOTHING meaningful, inspiring, or insightful. I felt a sheer void-like they'd tossed a year of brain-slowing medication in me and caused my own neurons to feel slurred in moving signals across synapses. I felt mentally drunk as if I'd just given the brain devotion I'd expect solid art to deserve-concentration similar to when I perform music or use higher mathematics to solve complex problems or even the level to assess and respond to social input and inquiry with reverence for others and ideally some depth--only to have drab and dreary versions of Teletubbies fed to me. Maybe there is some point beyond how trite, confident, undeservedly self-assured and ultimately stupid we tend to be, especially as teenagers. Maybe I wasted two hours watching them ultimately jack off to their own egos which only affirms the bad traits of humanity without granting an ounce of resolve that great films usually have or at least PRODUCE (the characters can find no resolve but still be meaningful to the audience, but these were just wealthy bratty white French youth spoiled and too like entitled Americans I cringe at too often--nothing in this film I can't find browsing deviantart and reading comments on Ron Paul related videos-was THAT why I chose it, to put a pretty set of faces on apathetic rich kids without any real hardship and with no real conviction either, to see another set of conformists who rebel together to fit in?) I guess my real issue is that in highlighting the morally decrepit youth here, this film never bothers to show distress beyond knowing what career path or what girl or guy to sleep wit-poor babies. So many films out there genuinely move me-from all places and mindsets and languages come brilliant works. Clearly the guy can shoot something very pretty. I wish he'd make a greater effort to share something very rich, evocative, conflict-bearing, etc. As is I cannot stand the idea of more pretty nothings with bland speech and bland vague jump-around story lines that never give me what an issue of Conde Nast Traveler magazine can't provide.

    (I put the disclaimer in case someone may be frustrated at anything I've included about what I got from it or more aptly did not get, but I don't think this film can exactly be spoiled unless you totally feel it is wrecked when someone tells you generic dude is with a blah girl them follows other generic dude to Italy and shacks up with blah girl two because other blah girl left him for older generic dude in London-it lacks a story so what's to spoil besides your hope of it being enchanting?)
  • Something in the Air (French: Après mai) (2012)

    Coming-of-age tale, Based on Assayas's life, Dream-like graceful camera, Gorgeous shots of Italy, The youthful zeal is catching.

    French high school students Art, film, drugs, love, politics, Unfocused story, More a nostalgic film than One that can be loved by all.

    Somonka is a form of poetry that is essentially two tanka poems, the second stanza a response to the first. Each stanza follows a 5-7-5-7-7 syllable pattern. Traditionally, each is a love letter. This form usually demands two authors, but it is possible to have a poet take on two personas. My somonka will be a love/hate letter to a film?

    #Somonka #PoemReview