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Mia Hansen-Løve's New Movie Eden Shows The Garage Music Scene In 1990s France
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Mia Hansen-Løve's New Movie Eden Shows The Garage Music Scene In 1990s France

Picture of Joey Leskin
Updated: 5 January 2017
France might not be the first country that springs to mind at the mention of house and garage music, but Cannes Film Festival Award-winning Mia Hansen-Løve’s hotly anticipated new film, Eden, shows that the dance scene in the 1990’s was as booming across The Channel as it was in the UK.
Paul Dj-ing | Courtesy Alfred
Paul Dj-ing | Courtesy Alfred

Co-written with her brother, 41 year-old Sven Hansen-Løve, Eden charts the emotive narrative of the semi-fictional Paul – a character based on Sven himself, whom we interview below. From humble beginnings DJ-ing with DaftPunk and epic club residencies, all the way through to drug problems and musical fallout, the film depicts the relatable life of a young man trying to craft himself creatively. It is done in a way that will provoke pertinent emotions for anyone who works in the arts, or indeed has ever harboured dreams of doing so.

Playing in parallel to Paul’s tale is a journey through the life of a musical genre: the house and garage of Paris in the 1990s, known collectively as ‘French Touch’. We see the highs of Daft Punk rising to be masters of the craft, and the lows, depicted brutally in a club scene in the aftermath of a big garage night, as the club owner is telling Paul that he should develop his sound to play more David Guetta. This character is in fact played by Sven’s best friend, who was ironically the inspiration for the garage aficionado character of Arnaud – the absolute antithesis of the manager.

This all comes with snappy, realistic dialogue (subtitled of course), documentary-style shooting and is packaged nicely at just about two hours. The obvious crowning glory of Eden is its soundtrack, which draws from the entire scope of the ‘French Touch’ scene – including three songs from Daft Punk themselves. They agreed to give the licenses to Mia for just a few thousand dollars, being fans of her previous work and believers in the story that the film is telling.We met with Sven Hansen-Løve in London this week to get the low down on the protagonist Paul, working with his younger sister, and his take on the evolution of music.

Paul and a girlfriend | Courtesy Alfred
Paul and a girlfriend | Courtesy Alfred

So Sven, how autobiographical is the film?

Well, my sister started the writing process by interviewing me and writing some notes…and then tried to stretch it. She added some invented stuff, I also invented stuff, so really it’s a mixture. And also some memories, I’m not so sure about them – you know memory can be tricky also. Probably half of it is really true, and half is invented. Like a dramatisation.

In that case, do you watch the film and see yourself in Paul?

I see him as a fictional character. One that sometimes relates really directly to me, but sometimes not at all. I was so into the process of the film, all aspects of it, all of the time, the preparation, pre-production, the finance…I was there for the shooting, the editing and sound editing, promotion…I was so into it that I had no real distance. The only distance came when the film was released in France, actually – then it became a little strange. I had some neighbours that I hardly know sending me notes saying “I hope you are OK”, “we feel so sorry for you”. That was a little bit awkward!

Do you see the film as a story of the genre of French House, or the story of the characters?

We were trying to do both. I will tell you an anecdote as an example: That club manager scene [referred to above] is something that actually happened to us. He was a good person, actually! But he was a club manager, not into music, so he didn’t understand why we had to stick to this “garage” thing. I think it says something about the musical time period, though, and the characters represent that too. If you want to go to the next step in your career, maybe you have to try something different and make some artistic changes. It is important for a DJ to develop their sound. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend David Guetta! But if I could go back to the past and speak to myself I would say “just try to see that music is changing and times are changing, and try to evolve”. Because in those days I couldn’t evolve, I was stuck and I wasn’t at all open minded.

Arnaud | Courtesy Alfred
Arnaud | Courtesy Alfred

In that case, what’s your opinion on the way house and garage music have developed? And what music do you listen to now?

I was stuck in Garage for years, but then I stopped being a DJ for a while because I had no gigs and was tired. But the good thing about stopping was that it enabled me to discover new music, and then after that I went back to listening to all that music I had listened to before I got into house and garage. Like indie, pop, rock, whatever – I listen to tonnes of different music, I am very eclectic in my taste. Now I am a DJ again, but I don’t play garage because it doesn’t really exist any more. Sometimes I play old school tunes but now it’s mostly deep house – I find music that fits my personality. It’s more moody and deep than it was before, but there are still some vocals and some great music there.

Do you think the French Touch style could experience a resurgence in France?

We always said ‘garage is coming back’, but it never did. But all music from the past is coming back a little bit, and it always will, because any music that is out there and exists will come back a little. But it’s not as important as it used to be, and I am sure it won’t ever be as influential as it was in those days.

Do you have any thoughts on the UK Garage scene of the 90’s, the parallel scene to the one in which you were immersed in France?

Well, we couldn’t show everything in the film, because it was too short! But actually, two of my best friends were into UK Garage and they went to the UK often to listen to DJs, and brought some British DJs to Paris, in fact. And we were close, so I was listening to it a lot. Todd Edwards made both, for example. He made house, then UK Garage then back to house and worked with Daft Punk. So there were some connections, but it was really a UK thing.

A young Daft Punk | Courtesy Alfred
A young Daft Punk | Courtesy Alfred

Daft Punk are depicted in the film several times. Did you consider getting them to play themselves?

No, we didn’t even ask them. We understand what they are doing and respect it. They are robots, right? So they can’t be shown on screen unless they are shown as robots, and we knew that. So to see them played by actors, it’s the same trick, if you think about it! It doesn’t destroy what they have built, so it’s OK. But they were happy and positive and helped us a lot from the beginning, and they were very interested in the project, especially Thomas [Bangalter], because he liked some of my sister’s other films. Thomas is really into cinema and probably wants to be a director himself – they may have some film projects themselves. It was a positive connection throughout.

Is this film the first thing you have collaborated on with your sister professionally?

No, I worked on the previous three films of hers but I took care of the casting and looking after the extras. She loves having loads of extras, so it was hard – I don’t want to do it any more! I didn’t do it on Eden because I had so much other stuff to do, but it gave me a touch of the film making process so it was interesting. With Eden, everything was mixed between us. My job title was actually “artistic consultant” and it was a super cool job. It means you can arrive on the set whenever you want, you don’t have to be on time, you just get to tell people what to do (laughs). I enjoyed it a lot!

It’s great that you are able to work so extensively with your sister – your parents must be proud! Yeah, I guess they are, more or less. They’re used to it by now! It’s not so unusual to have a sibling partnership in a creative process, look at the Coen brothers. But whilst they’re doing it all the time, I don’t think we would do this again – it’s just one project. I need to do my own stuff. I’m trying to be a writer, and doing a Masters in Creative Writing right now.

Sven Hansen-Love | Courtesy Alfred
Sven Hansen-Love | Courtesy Alfred

So what’s next for you – just the writing?

Well, I do DJ again as the film gave me good connections with people, so I am doing a lot of gigs right now in France and overseas. But the DJ-ing is in a more relaxed, distanced way now. I don’t drink, I try to be professional, and get the right balance with the time and energy I put into it. I think I have found the right balance right now. And after this? I plan to move to Spain in one year when I have finished my studies. I’ll move to a small town to write!

Whilst I’m stuck writing in London. Let me know how it goes! Would you like to give viewers of the film a final message?

I hope that people will be watching the film and thinking about their own life and their own past and the paths they have taken, and that the film somehow reflects their own decisions, especially in terms of their artistic career and a career like a corporate job or something. I’m not saying they should have done anything specific – just to try to find a moment in their life to take some time to think about the choices they have made.

Eden is released on 24 July 2015 to over 50 cinemas nationwide.