Mia Hansen-Løve's lucid and shimmering movie memoir Eden traces the sloping rise and even more meandering fall of a French techno DJ across some twenty years. Eden isn't even about anything as broad as electronic dance music: It deals largely with the specific techno subgenre known as garage — at one point, the movie's half-loping, half-stumbling hero, Paul (played by Félix de Givry), tries to explain the music's finer distinctions to a new acquaintance, rambling on about its genesis in New York's Paradise Garage in the early 1980s at the hands of visionary DJ Larry Levan. Paul's a prisoner of his own purity, and generally a pain in the ass -- but still, we feel for him. And that's how Eden hooks you: Even if you know nothing about techno, let alone garage, Hansen-Løve's exploration of the ways music can nourish you or swallow you whole is instantly, perhaps painfully, recognizable. A quiet, raggedly beautiful mini-epic, Eden isn't a success story; it's a failure story. But it's also a glittering acknowledgement of the fact that failing is the only path toward growing.
The picture is sometimes a bit too languid -- it sprawls in places where it should probably sprint. But its hold becomes stronger scene by scene, and Hansen-Løve captures the vibe of this set in marvelous, intimate detail: Paul and his friends go to a rave held on the grounds of an old fort; it's a place of enchantment, a spot where dreams can surely be made reality (with the help of a little Ecstasy). The pulse of the music -- seductive, ephemeral, unhummable -- is a guiding force, like a beckoning hand made of smoke. No wonder Paul falls.