Something in the Air ★★★★

Sunshine for the youth
Revolutionaries without much cause
Parting of paths
But always looking back
Keep conviction

Mostly stand by what I wrote here during NYFF, now with a little more restraint. Parts here and there felt a bit extraneous, and at least one super odd choice—an insert of Laure speaking her letter on the screen—that I couldn't make heads or tails out of. But now works for me as a fascinating comparison to Cold Water having viewed that recently. The earlier film is immediate, visceral, and audacious in a way that could only be made by a young filmmaker. Apres Mai is careful, calculated, generous, and thoughtful about its time and its characters' rebellion. Kent Jones writes in his book, "How do you make a film about people who lack self-awareness? Or, to be more precise, people who have learned to cultivate a systematic self-censoring that they take to be self-awareness?"

Assayas here plays with dichotomies: between sun lit vistas and violent spirit, a first spark of romance at a militant revolutionary film, between characters who act like they're in a Bresson film but can't help but lust at each other (Creton's performance even more pronounced and nuanced a second time through), and between having conviction and not knowing what to have it for. Laure tells Gilles early, "don't watch me as I leave," but the camera does, and repeated throughout (characters always look back, immediately regretting the decisions they make in favor of a future they don't know). Assayas's camera work is more relaxed and fluid than the whirlwind of Cold Water's surfaces,* but he's very attuned to watching his world grow (twice he makes a big jump cut as characters kiss, immediately placing them in time and space). Cold Water's party continues into the hard morning winter; Apres Mai blows it up in flames, burning as Gilles abandons it, maturing before our eyes. A montage near the end of the film shows each of the characters moving into adulthood, even Christine who might work for revolutionaries but barters with theaters over print costs and shops for groceries. The film's beauty is that it comes of age as its characters do: instead of foreground its failures, it begins with youthful spirit in the school, slowly expanding its world until that childhood is gone.

*The DCP did no favors to the film's night scenes, which were barely legible.