something in the air
Olivier Assayas follows his mammoth mini-series Carlos with this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age film set in 1971. Gilles is a student activist, selling papers and attending meetings. He is sincere and committed but there is more to his life - a passion for art and his beautiful girlfriend Laure. When a security guard is injured during a political action, Gilles and his friends go underground. For him this means getting in a VW van and hanging out in Italy. While some characters seem to love being part of this special group, Gilles starts to seem like a bit more of an outsider.
The film is somewhat aimless but that actually turns out to be one of the very best things about it. It truly is a story about Gilles growing up, becoming wiser and seeing what is a fashionable phase and what is central to his personal beliefs. It occasionally changes points of view, a device that rarely works. But in this case it does and it is intriguing to find out what becomes of Gilles friends - unsmiling revolutionary Jean-Pierre, dreamy Laure, and Alain, who can't believe his luck in hooking up with a gorgeous American hippie who wants to learn sacred dancing. Gilles' sometime girlfriend Christine has joined a group of revolutionary filmmakers but is starting to see that despite the ideals of the "collective," she is the one doing all the work.
Much of Something in the Air just illustrates the times - the leftist political and countercultural scene in early 1970s Europe. Costumes, locations and ambiance are all fantastic. In French the title is After May, which is seems like a much better fit. Sadly there are no more screenings.