Mia Hansen-Løve’s film follows the 20-year journey of a young French DJ named Paul, who gets caught up in the house and electro scene that propelled Daft Punk to stardom. Daft Punk is even represented in peripheral roles by Vincent Lacoste as Thomas Bangalter and Arnaud Azoulay as Guy-Maneul De Homen-Christo, and there’s a running joke throughout the film where the pair can’t get into clubs because nobody recognizes them without their famous helmets. One of the film’s highlights comes in a scene where they play their historic hit “Da Funk” for the first time at a house party, and everyone starts to feel the energy that this is something exciting and new.
Few films sprawl like Hansen-Løve’s latest, which spans twenty years, surveying the landscape of garage, techno, and house music, bumping into the likes of Daft Punk. It’s a film that is packed with an incredibly energy, specifically through music, but what is critical about this idea is that the energy is attached to that music. It would be far more frivolous and forgetful were the energy to simply exist as the de facto atmosphere of the film, but Hansen-Løve understands the power of music in a singular manner. In one scene, Paul will be at a party or DJ-ing one, the music and the party’s attendants both turned up. She’ll cut to another scene after the party, and immediately there’s a sense of loss and melancholy. The energy doesn’t just dissipate, it disappears. The deflation of energy in a film is a dangerous thing to attempt and often regarded as a weakness, but since the film is very much about Paul and his connection to music, it’s crucial to understand that that is his escape. The film even names the second of its two “parts” “Lost in Music”. It understands that this escapism and submersion into one’s passion as a way to avoid life is a double-edged sword, only workable and usable up to a certain point before it becomes a risk itself.