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An electronica origin story – ‘Le Choc du Futur’

November 16, 2020
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There’s something great about being surprised by a movie.

It doesn’t happen all that often when you’re steeped in the trappings of the cinematic world, but it does happen. Movies that have flown under the radar for various reasons – or at least, flown under your particular radar – only to pop up at an opportune moment.

I’ll freely admit that I had never heard of “Le Choc du Futur” (translation: “The Shock of the Future”) when I crossed paths with it. Nor had I ever heard of Marc Collin, the French musician who was making his writing/directing debut as a feature filmmaker. But it was an official selection at SXSW and got a fair amount of positive attention, so I figured why not?

Little did I realize what I was getting. This gauzy, meandering day-in-the-life movie – the story of a young woman in late-1970s Paris coming to terms with the many looming changes in the music world – is a remarkable treat. It’s leisurely and languid, the type of film that cares far less about plot than it does about the overall vibe. Often, that sort of attitude only serves to undermine the viewing experience. Here, it enhances it.

Oh, and the music is (unsurprisingly) killer.

Ana (Alma Jodorowsky, “The Enemy”) is a young woman living and working in Paris in 1978. She is an aspiring musician, one inspired and fascinated by the electronic revolution in music that she believes is looming. She’s living in the flat of a fellow musician, one packed with cutting-edge musicmaking technology, and trying to extract the sounds she hears in her head.

Over the course of the day, we see her engage with various figures. There’s Jean-Mi (Phillippe Rebbot), the producer who has hired her to pen a TV jingle that she has no intention of writing. There’s Herve (Teddy Melis), a gear buddy of the guy whose apartment Ana is staying in; he swings by with a brand-new piece of music tech – a beat box that is a game-changer for what Ana hopes to do. There’s the aging hipster (Geoffrey Carey) who comes by with a handful of carefully selected records for Ana to sample. And then there’s Tatiana (Clara Luciani), a singer who turns up for a cancelled recording session, only to lend her talents to a track that Ana thinks might be her breakthrough.

All of these visits culminate in a listening party that evening, where Ana plays a bunch of records before unveiling her own new track in an effort to impress a record executive – an effort that may not prove as fruitful as she hopes.

And that’s … kind of it, really.

“Le Choc du Futur” is a love letter to the early days of electronic music, an embrace of the old school beginnings that laid the foundation for much of the popular music we listen to today. It’s also a celebration of the pioneering women who battled the prejudices of the male-dominated music industry to become some of the earliest proponents of the possibilities inherent to electronic music.

It’s an intimate film, taking place almost entirely within the confines of this one tiny Parisian apartment. Other than one brief instance, Ana is indoors, utterly enraptured by the possibilities of the equipment that dominates her space. Even when she’s not alone – even when the place is packed with people – the wall of tech remains her (and by extension our) primary focus.

(Seriously – the gear fetishists out there are going to LOVE this movie. While I myself am not intimately familiar with the particulars of this tech, I know enough to know that people who DO have that intimate familiarity will be thrilled.)

We also get to watch the mundanity of creation in a way that isn’t often portrayed; the hiccups, the false starts, the dead ends … they’re presented here in an unvarnished and honest fashion. We see Ana’s progress in fits and starts as she tries to harness the vast potential both in this equipment and in herself.

It’s a beautifully executed period piece, capturing the attitude and aesthetic of the time and place in a manner both delicate and decisive. And while the stakes are undeniably low, the truth is that again, the story isn’t really what matters. This is a film less concerned with narrative and more concerned with its look and (especially) its sound.

And it sounds GREAT. As you might expect, the music is front and center here; the soundtrack is packed with vintage electronica, as well as songs intended to sound vintage. Whether we’re talking about tunes from electronic music stalwarts like Human League and Throbbing Gristle or Ana’s own original tune (which is kind of a banger), music takes center stage throughout. I caught myself bobbing my head to the beat more than once.

Jodorowsky as Ana is exquisite casting; the actress is possessed of an ideal combination of rebelliousness and naivete. She somehow manages to come off as both ethereal and grounded, which is no easy feat. Her energy is quiet but her presence is outsized, an odd and seemingly counterintuitive juxtaposition that makes her incredible compelling to watch. The rest of the cast is uniformly solid, but the truth is that everything revolves around Jodorowsky’s performance – as she goes, so goes the movie.

“Le Choc du Futur” is a movie that I could easily have missed, but I’m glad I didn’t. It’s an aesthetically interesting and musically engaging film, one that tries (and largely succeeds) to capture the sound of a moment – that moment when the present gave way to the future.

[4 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 16 November 2020 10:31

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