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Films I Neglected To Review: Pass The Orange Juice
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "Eden," "The Overnight" and the return of the "Decline of Western Civilization" trilogy.

Sort of the "Inside Llewyn Davis" for the electronic dance music (EDM) movement, the sprawling French import Eden offers viewers a guided tour of nearly two decades of that particular music scene as seen through the eyes of a practitioner who, despite his talents, just never quite managed to break through even as other acts were becoming mainstream sensations. Our guide is Paul (Felix de Givry), who first discovers the music while a teenage student and tosses aside his literature studies in the hopes of becoming a deejay as part of a duo with a friend. As the years go by, he achieves some degree of success--even playing a few high-profile shows in New York--but never goes beyond that and his career eventually begins to fade away as he succumbs to too many late nights filled with drugs, too many busted relationships and a stubborn refusal to change his musical style in order to fit in with the times. At one point, he runs into an old American girlfriend (Greta Gerwig), who is now married and expecting a child, and she remarks "It's crazy that you haven't changed" and believe me, it doesn't come across as a compliment.

The film was directed by Mia Hansen-Love and she co-wrote the script with her brother Sven, himself a former deejay whose experiences helped to inspire and inform the project. As a result, "Eden" has a more realistic tone than most cinematic sagas of this type--if it weren't for the deliberate decision to keep de Givry looking the same throughout the entire film rather than artificially aging him to suggest the passage of time, there are times when it could be mistaken for a documentary. I liked the simultaneously epic and low-key feel of the film, the good central performance from di Givry and a funny running gag about two guys who are continually unable to gain admittance into the hottest clubs even after they form the EDM group Daft Punk (though to be fair, they are in their street clothes at the time). It does run on a little too long at times--some of the endless club sequences could have been trimmed without losing much of anything--and those not already predisposed towards EDM as a genre may be driven mad by the wall-to-wall (and beyond) soundtrack but for the most part, "Eden" is an eye and ear-opening look at a musical subculture that may not be that familiar to people on this side of the pond.

As the raunchy comedy "The Overnight" begins, recently transplanted Seattle couple Alex (Adam Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are wondering about how they and their young son will fit in with their new L.A. surroundings when they happen to meet uber-hipster Kurt (Jason Schwartzman) and his son in a park and he invites them to a family play date that night at the house he shares with wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche). It is all innocent fun and games for a while but after the kids conk out for the night, the adults decide to play and Kurt and Charlotte begin to lead the new arrivals into strange areas involving art, massage and confronting body issues that include copious amounts of booze, pot and nudity as well. Although the details may be a bit on the outré side (such as Kurt's series of paintings of a very specific body part and what will surely go down as the most talked-about nude scene of the summer--involving the guys for once), the straights vs. kooks narrative is as conventional as can be (things only start to get a little interesting towards the very end but that particular moment unfortunately ends a little too abruptly) and writer-director Patrick Brice doesn't exactly jazz things up from a cinematic standpoint. However, I must confess that it does contain several big laughs, the performances from the four co-leads are fun and energetic and at 79 minutes, it never quite overstays its welcome.

Released in 1981 to enormous controversy and the occasional in-theater riot, Penelope Spheeris's landmark documentary "The Decline of Western Civilization" offered viewers an eye-opening look at the Los Angeles punk rock scene of the era through interviews and performances from such soon-to-be-legendary groups as X, Black Flag, Fear and the Circle Jerks. In 1988, she returned with a sequel, subtitled "The Metal Years," that focused on the heavy metal scene with participants ranging from fans and groupies to such performers as Ozzy Osbourne, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler and Lemmy as well as those that had yet to break through. While rumors would surface in later years that some of the most famous moments in the film (such as Osbourne struggling to prepare breakfast and a drunken Chris Holmes floating in a pool while downing a bottle of vodka) were faked, it also shone a new and interesting light on a musical subculture too often dismissed by the press. 1998's "The Decline of Western Civilization: Part III" was a powerful and heartbreaking work that focused on the new L.A. punk scene that was inhabited largely by largely homeless runaways who formed new families while living on the streets in complete rejection of the norms of contemporary society.

Despite their cult status, these films have, for various reason, been notoriously difficult to see over the last couple of decades (with the third installment never really getting an official theatrical release) but they have finally emerged from their long-standing limbo and are being unveiled to a new generation of moviegoers in special screenings across the country. Those of you in Chicago, for example, can go to the fabled Music Box theater this Saturday night to not only catch a double-feature of the first to films but see a live Q&A with Penelope Spheeris as well. For those of you not in the area, all three films will be making their long-awaited DVD/Blu-Ray debuts in "The Decline of Western Civilization Collection," a box set that brings together digitally remastered editions of the films, commentaries on all three from Spheeris, an additional commentary on the original by Dave Grohl, additional interviews and performances and a bonus disc that includes more interviews, a news report about the auspicious opening of the first film and panel discussions about the importance of the three films. Even if you aren't partial to the musical genres being dissected--and I am as far from a metalhead as you can get--these are among the most compelling music-related documentaries ever made and are must-sees, whether in the theater or at home.

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originally posted: 06/26/15 04:25:09
last updated: 07/01/15 00:30:15
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