TIFF 2012: Assayas’ ‘Après Mai’ is dubiously conceived déjà vu

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Après Mai
Written by Olivier Assayas
Directed by Olivier Assayas
France, 2012

After a series of riots and skirmishes with law enforcement in 1971 Paris, a team of anarchic teen protestors opts to lay low for the summer in effort to conceal their identities and avoid persecution. Fractured from the reinforcement of routine and presented with various new pastimes and horizons, the group’s individuals spend their break gravitating from instigation and revolt in favor of  travel, mirth and love – self discovery or self destruction.

Without prior knowledge, one so much as remotely versed in this auteur’s oeuvre could handily identify the signature aura peeking through. From airy steadicam to pastel wash the partly autobiographical Après Mai (appropriately referential yet less fitting U.S. title “Something in the Air”) is clearly the work of Olivier Assayas, albeit considerably lesser in execution as though on uninspired autopilot.

We have seen this all before. At times the piece feels as though a pale copy of past work geared solely to grant the filmmaker opportunity to revisit scenes for merely slight reinterpretation, or to at times hubristically communicate with them. The gorgeously exemplary Summer Hours house party, for example, is practically transplanted here with only a differing conclusion and downgraded visuals to set it apart.

These scenes of déjà vu fail to justify their existence, and as our underdeveloped team of teens fractures and the tryingly languid narrative frays, so follow any hints of potential significance. To be fair this is barring the marginal semi-resolution that seems to suggest illustration of adolescent anti-significance as in fact the overarching purpose, although doing so without any modicum of gravitas.

Though more of the same from Assayas certainly does not sound like a negative, Après Mai causes one to ponder who apart from its creator might actually enjoy being bothered with such dubiously conceived regurgitation, let alone who would be satisfied to have gone out of their way to see it at TIFF.

-Tom Stoup

Learn more about Après Mai at TIFF 2012 here and the Toronto International Film Festival here.

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