There is a moment at around the midpoint of Eden in which one of the characters waxes lyrical about the importance of Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls. While his friends belittle his taste he informs them that Verhoeven wanted to make a film about the grotesque nature of the American Dream. It’s a funny and particularly telling scene because the story of Eden is that, like in Showgirls, of a dreamer but told with a romantic and nostalgic glint.
Paul (Félix de Givry) is an aspiring DJ in early ‘90s Paris as he helps pioneer the French Touch movement. Over the years he tries to chase the dream of becoming an international superstar. But, as he watches his friends become Daft Punk, he soon realises that while he longs for something greater all around him are moving on with their lives. So despite the hedonistic lifestyle Paul leads he only occasionally glimpses happiness.
Towards the end of Eden a club owner turns to Paul and tells him that while his style and taste in music hasn’t changed over the years the people who listen to it have. It’s a perfect moment that captures the essence of the film. That idea of, like the title, paradise lost. At one point Paul looks as though he’ll conquer the world but it never quite happens.
Director and co-writer Mia Hansen-Løve loosely based the film on her brother Sven’s life and there is a delicate honesty to the films proceedings. Amid the clubbing, which is shot with a sense of euphoria, lost in the music nostalgia, Hansen-Løve paints a vivid and often heart melting chronicle of a man’s passion both defining and undermining his life.
When not transporting you with a smile inducing soundtrack Løve’s film creates scenes of beautiful intimacy. The scenes between Paul and Louise, played with quiet, stroppy seduction by Pauline Etienne, are honest, familiar and always adorable to such an extent as you revel in their company as much as you do the music.
Givry’s performance is perfectly judged. As Paul he brings a level of arrogance mixed with desperate self-doubt to perfection. It’s a wonderfully honest performance that does much by refusing to become dramatic.
At one point Paul describes the music of Eden as a perfect balance “between euphoria and melancholia. The film itself somehow, despite a slightly long running time, does exactly the same.