It’s Paris, 1992. Paul stumbles into a rave at a docked submarine, where garage is worshipped as “the robotic aspect of electronic music, but with the warmth of soul”. It’s the opening of Mia Hansen-Løve’sEden, a rhythmically bittersweet drama about Paul’s 20-year struggle to keep the party going. It’s also the film of the year so far, thanks to its authenticity – you really feel you’re there – and participation from those who partied during the French Touch scene.
One of those key figures was photographer Agnès Dahan, whose snapshots of weekly club night Respect helped Løve perfect the film. “We discussed and looked through hundreds of pictures,” says Dahan. “From the style to the attitude, it gave her a great body of work to document the costumes and designs.”
Rarely missing a Respect party, Dahan experienced the highs (“waiting in line for the bathroom with the Chemical Brothers”), the lows (“the security of the club Le Queen being assholes throughout the years”) and what it’s like to know Daft Punk beneath the helmets. “I got to meet them, visit their LA home, and then their Paris home for costume parties. Those two were definitely talented boys with a vision.”
It began in 1996, when Dahan photographed Respect’s first night. “They never guessed the images would be so successful. I had carte blanche. Every flyer for the next party had a picture from the week before.” Describing herself as a reporter, she found inspiration in the emotions flowing through the room, whether from a dancer or someone crashed in a corner. “The idea behind Respect was being democratic, welcoming everyone to a free party on a Wednesday, in a club where usually it’s hard to get in. The pictures were a message that touched everyone.”
But Eden isn’t a non-stop rave, as Paul – a DJ who doesn’t become Daft Punk – struggles financially when the music falls out of fashion. While his peers start families and steady jobs, he spins the decks for diminishing audiences. “It might sound naive,” Dahan says of the era, “but I thought it would last longer. It’s like time catches up, and the generation you belonged to has moved on.”
Eden is out in UK cinemas 24 July. More info on Agnès Dahan can be found here