Synth music is perhaps now taken for granted, so ingrained is its presence in both contemporary pop music and film scores, spearheaded by the likes of Vangelis and John Carpenter and countless others since. French musician and producer Marc Collin makes his directorial debut with Le Choc Du Futur, taking us lovingly back to the synth’s birth and expansion in the mid to-late 1970s. He focuses on home recording pioneers in Paris, and the impact the new wave of synth–inspired sounds had on the youth of the period. While it is a loving ode to synth music and well-acted, Le Choc Du Futur is perhaps lacking a sense of urgency that would set it apart.

Alma Jodorowsky, granddaughter of the visionary filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (The Holy Mountain, El Topo), plays Ana, a frustrated youth in late 1970s Paris. Her world is opened up by an introduction to the new opportunities presented by synth and electronic music as she records her own music in a flat she is house-sitting. Ana is tired of rock music that she says will end up in museums like jazz before it, listened to by the bourgeois exclusively.

The film is surprisingly small scale and low key with the vast majority of its run time solely occupying the space in the flat taking place over a day in Ana’s life. Despite this, it never feels claustrophobic or tedious, although we are treated to perhaps a few too many renditions of the tunes Ana is working on. Though this gives us an eye into her creative process, it would perhaps have been more eye-opening to see the impact Ana’s music has on a wider audience. Though we are treated to Ana testing her sounds out at a party, this perhaps comes too late on in the film to fully have the impact it could have had.

Le Choc Du Futur opens to the strains of Cerrone’s “Supernature” and the music of the period is referenced throughout. Works by Kraftwerk are name-dropped, in addition to scenes spent listening to various synth artists and recordings made by Ana. The way the era’s music is blended into the film’s score is one of its triumphs and the film is sonically and technically very astute and impressive as a result, perhaps by virtue of Collin’s musical background and the regard in which he holds the genre.  The gear in Ana’s flat is impressive and a key component of the world the film occupies.  The variety of scenes where she dabbles with her home-recording equipment are sure to please tech heads and those who were around in the 70s electronic heyday.

The film’s stance on feminism is difficult to discern, while it is a tribute to the female pioneers of the electronic scene, we perhaps don’t see enough of this battleground and the difficulties facing the women in their struggle to be acknowledged on equal terms with their male counterparts. It is however refreshing to see a female-led take on a story such as this, and it is an era that certainly feels underrepresented in film, when compared to the 60s and punk scene of the 70s that are so often the subject of biopics and music documentaries.

A technically assured debut from Marc Collin and a well-acted piece. Le Choc Du Futur may not be as earth-shattering as it aspires to be, but it provides a window into the creative nature of home-recording in the 1970s and how it revolutionised much of the music that has come since. It is technically impressive and Alma Jodorowsky gives a fine performance that conveys a range of emotions and the frustration Ana feels.

It’s petite nature works in its favour and its attention to period detail is on the button, although perhaps a wider scope would have, at times, been appreciated. It resorts occasionally to tropes that audiences may be over-familiar with, such as rock being antiquated, but it is a pleasant way to spend 80 minutes and bodes well for Collin’s potential as a filmmaker, as his clear affection for the period and style of music shines through.

Rating: ★★★½

Le Choc du Futur is available on VOD from November 10 2020.

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