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Something in the Air (2013)

Director: Olivier Assayas
Stars: Clement Metayer, Lola Creton, Felix Armand, Carole Combes, India Menuez, Hugo Conzelmann

Olivier Assayas, one of France's most consistently exciting directors (go stream Carlos on Netflix right now), contemplates his adolescence in his latest, Something in the Air. (The French title is Après mai, which translates toAfter May—it's far more evocative than the blandness we were stuck with.)

Assayas' gorgeous, meandering movie opens not long after the May '68 student revolt in Paris. His high school-age stars want to keep the fervor burning, and so they vandalize and riot, meet to talk about radical politics and art practices. Gilles (Clement Metayer), a brooding kid with a mop of hair and a blank look-book face, can't decide whether he'd rather paint, protest, or just hump around. When a security guard at his school is seriously injured by Gilles' and his band of bougie rebels, the group scatters across Europe, the better to lay low in the wake of the altercation.

Something in the Air is part road movie, part reflection on the complex relationship between political action, political art, and artistic innovation, and part coming-of-age tale. The film succeeds because, though everything from the stars to the scenery is very beautiful, Assayas doesn't douse the proceedings in sentiment. These are kids who are probably going to grow up to be the middle-class types they hate, and their aspirations are driven as much by fashion and hormones as anything else. And yet their shifting radical convictions do seem real, too. By refusing to parse the mess, Assayas gets at something like the truth. —RS

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