Filmmaker Olivier Assayas was 13 in 1968, when student protests were brewing in France, and his new drama, "Something in the Air," neatly captures that feeling of young people catching up to the passing parade.
Assayas' stand-in for this semi-autobiographical tale is Gilles (ClÃ©ment Mettayer), a student who gets involved with pro-Communist and antiwar organizations at his school, but would rather explore his personal muse by painting or making films. He's also torn between two loves: Laure (Carole Combes), the mercurial beauty who rejects him; and Christine (Lola CrÃ©ton), who loves him but is more devoted to the cause.
Assayas ("Carlos," "Summer Hours") follows Gilles as he encounters a wide array of rabble-rousers, hippie chicks and other adventurous youth, seeking escape from conformity in whatever way possible sex, drugs, music, art or politics. The results can sometimes be a bit muddled, as Assayas crams the story with an excess of underdeveloped side characters, but Mettayer's portrayal of Gilles as he finds his own path is exhilarating.
'Something in the Air'
Opens Friday, May 31, at the Tower Theatre; not rated, but probably R for sexuality, nudity, some violence and language; in French with subtitles; 122 minutes.