Very disappointing

I'm a big fan of Assayas' previous films, so this one was a real let-down. Here's a few reasons why (SPOILERS):

1. It had no clear POV. By following so many characters simultaneously, it resulted in no emotional involvement with any of them.

2. The film had no center. It felt like a series of random scenes strung together by an editor. With no forward momentum driving it, it was really dull.

3. This period in history is one of my favorites, and one which I've researched quite assiduously since college. In fact, I've always regretted I was too young to have been part of it. That said, I should have loved this film. But, the fatal mistake Assayas made was in not showing WHY these kids were so pissed off. Did one of them lose a brother or father in Vietnam when the French were there a decade or more earlier? Were the officials at the school perpetrating Fascist tactics upon the students, which resulted in their vandalizing the school and nearly killing a security guard? And so on.

As it was presented, they just came off as a bunch of entitled bourgeois brats who were being anarchists because that's what was fashionable at the time. Ten years later if they'd been part of my generation, they'd have had short hair and been preppies. There was no clear ideology driving them and no clear motivation driving the story. Therefore, there was nothing for me as an audience member to invest in.

Hopefully another filmmaker will choose to tell a story about this turbulent, fascinating time in history when the world's young people had a conscience and believed ideas and ideals were worth fighting for. This one ain't it.


You touch upon some of the reasons I love this film. The movie isn't about the height of the period you talk about, but the end. These kids ARE just doing what they are doing because it's fashionable.

I see the film less about the ideas of the time and more about the post-60s disconnect between art, politics, and love.


I agree with dbg 1224 and Owlwise. One of the central themes is chaos and anarchy, and being the protagonist's age in that era, I can safely say that this film reflects things pretty accurately. People come and go, relationships blaze and fade, causes change and intermingle. I felt like I was IN 1971 here, rather than many Hollywood "retro" movies that try to hard to reproduce the period. Something in the Air wasn't a perfect film, but it was a very good one.


Alwood, speaking as someone who was a teenager at that time, I understand your question about WHY. The answer isn't entirely clearcut, because it was seldom something as specific as the possibilities you suggest, i.e., "Did one of them lose a brother or father in Vietnam when the French were there a decade or more earlier? Were the officials at the school perpetrating Fascist tactics upon the students, which resulted in their vandalizing the school and nearly killing a security guard?"

The English title says it all, really -- there WAS something in the air, a sense that everything that had come before was irredeemably corrupt & strangling the very soul of humanity. Which is overly dramatic & impossibly Romantic to say the least, of course, but it's indeed how many felt at the time. That's the thing about the late 1960s -- it was a confluence of so many changes, one of those historical periods where everything is up for grabs, and nothing is safe from thorough, even merciless examination.

This is a generation that spent its early childhood, its most formative psychological years, not only fearing nuclear war but expecting it. (Yes, I did the "duck & cover" drills as a little boy myself.) Additionally, knowledge of the Holocaust was everywhere; it was still so new & horrifically overwhelming that we simply couldn't understand how it could have happened -- especially as children under the age of 10 or so. With events like that hanging over our heads, along with the civil rights struggle, the war in Vietnam, the first realistion of ecological consciousness, etc., the zeitgeist was formed. At the same time, groups like the Beats & the Angry Young Men both questioned the status quo & proposed alternative modes of living, which spread very quickly to all of us growing children. And as the 1960s progressed, and things just seemed to get worse, there was a sense of impending apocalypse ... and yet at the same time, there was a belief (or hope) in utter transformation & transcendence. THAT is a heady combination at any age, but never more so than when you're a teenager!

I think that's what's so hard for later generations to understand viscerally; just how it FELT. Not that we were better or special; we were just born at that particular time, and that's what shaped us. Hell, I grew up in it, and it seems more than a little unreal to me now, as much as I loved it. There was such a sense of real & limitless possibilities then! Naive, certainly -- but what a blaze of energy & hope & dread all intertwined! (We often thought & spoke in exclamation points then.)

True, there were plenty of hangers-on, those doing what everyone else did because it was fashionable & hip. In fact, there were probably more of those than people who genuinely believed in a world utterly changed, utterly born anew. But the ones who did believe that were the driving force of the times. It's just that any fire burning that fiercely & brightly burns itself into ashes rather quickly, which is what gave us the late 1970s & 1980s.


As someone just a little older than Assayas who came of age around the time of the movie, my experience was the lack of a clear POV or center and the lack of any explanation WHY people felt this way was the _reality_ of the period. If you've found some kind of intellectual scheme that ties all the threads together neatly, please let me in on the secret so I can apply it retrospectively.

My experience was the endless arguments about theory and practice were just the surface manifestations of the fact that at root people really didn't share any common "why". Everybody was against "the man" ...but probe a little deeper and for some folks that was capitalism, for some it was Viet Nam, for some it was lousy parents, for some it was unrepresentative government, for some it was multi-national corporations, for some it was the CIA, for some it was political parties, for some it was simply the impatience of youth, and so forth.


Well a number of posters have commented that the film's lack of centre and sense of engagement reflected what was in the air at the time of the film's events. That should make the film a success. I'm from a later period and don't relate easily to the film and found it an empty experience. It was very watchable but the characters all hailed from safe middle class backgrounds to which they returned when their revolutionary dreams fail; except Jean-Pierre. The security guard, Laurent, is a member of the proletariat and his brain is damaged during their flirtation with anarchy and conflict. Of course the inclusion of Laurent is commendable by Assayas except that the POV is that of Gilles and Jean-Pierre where the latter has been incorectly and unfairly identified as one of Laurent's attackers. So the proletariat have no voice in Assayas's film and for me it is another version of events from those in power in society and no more.

I think the film's centre was its theme of art versus revolution and whether or not art can be made in a revolutionary form and one that doesn't borrow from the old, the bourgeois and conventional. That was quite interesting but the answer apparent was dispiriting.

Movement ends, intent continues;
Intent ends, spirit continues


The film felt a bit aimless to me as well. I appreciate the points the other posters here are making about the various motives (or lack thereof) of these kids, and its understandable. At the same time I feel like I've seen a lot of French films talking about and portraying revolution during this period. However I had trouble deciphering what kind of unique contribution Assayas was making to this "genre" of film. His portrayal, while at times incredibly visceral and genuine, felt a bit generic, like he was evoking cliches and just making a superficial film about french revolutionary kids (although I don't think the film is superficial - I'm honestly not sure how to place it). While I loved the film at times I had trouble figuring out what I was supposed to be getting out of it.

All that said I would like to educate myself some more about this period. The posters in this thread that know more about this topic have actually motivated me to read up a little and also revisit this film. No time to do that right now, but maybe it will happen someday...


I came away from the film feeling like I saw something meaningful to those living those experiences. It's too bad that this movie, which is in every way superior to the boring mess that is The Clouds of Sils Maria, doesn't engender the same interest that does.