Film review: Something in the Air - an evocative tale of rebellion and romance

Dir. Olivier Assayas (15). Starring Clément Métayer, Lola Créton, 129mins

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The Independent Culture

Entitled "Après Mai" in its original French, Olivier Assayas's nostalgic but jaundiced semi-autobiographical film is about the initial fervency and eventual dissipation of student radicalism in the aftermath of the May '68 uprisings.

It opens on a shot of its antihero Gilles (Clément Métayer) in 1971, scratching the enclosed A symbol of the anarchist movement into his school desk with a pair of compasses. And while some of the consequences of his actions become graver, his protest doesn't get significantly more articulate or effective than that. Every signifier of the era is present and accounted for: VW Camper vans and tie-dye T-shirts, molotov cocktails, slogan graffiti and mimeographed pamphlets, poetry, vinyl records and acoustic guitars, braless young women, naked yoga, drugs, and cigarettes. Lots and lots of cigarettes.

There are scenes at political rallies and at parties, at the cinema and impromptu happenings, and a sense of how political causes were intermingled with perfectly ordinary generational struggles, adolescent self-seriousness and romantic idealism. In fact, while it may well be true to history, it is to the detriment of the film that Gilles and his friends are so fundamentally self-absorbed and unexceptional. Surely early-Seventies student radicalism was a bit more fun than this?