The something in the air in Olivier Assayas’ “Something in the Air” is youth, politics, violence, art, sex and mopeds. The film begins “not far from Paris” in 1971, when writer-director Assayas was 16 years old. It charts the lives of several adolescent friends and associates, most of them from well-to-do households, as they take to the streets to protest violently and battle with even more violent police, find what they want to do with their lives, travel, experiment with drugs, write tracts, draw, paint and make love.
Yes, it is the younger version of Assayas’ 1998 group portrait of friends and acquaintances “Late August, Early September” (the new film’s French title is “Apres Mai”) and has some things in common with Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers,” which is set in Paris in 1968.
The film’s protagonist is shaggy-headed, dark-haired, aspiring artist Gilles (sleepy-eyed Clement Metayer). When we first meet him, Gilles is engaged in an affair with the beautiful willowy Laure (a luminous Carole Combes), who dumps him when she goes to live in London with her mother and her mother’s new lover. Gilles then becomes enamored of Christine (Lola Creton), a political firebrand who leaves to follow fellow activists to Italy.
“Something in the Air” captures the look and fiery spirit of the times with eerie precision and authenticity.