The Shock of the Future review – when synths ruled the world | Film

From Vangelis to John Carpenter, synthesised music was a liquescent shot in the arm for late 70s/early 80s cinema. Now French musician and producer Marc Collin has mounted this perhaps over-reverential tribute, which makes a timely nod to a nucleus of female pioneers, among them Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Spiegel and Wendy Carlos. If that doesn’t have the needle spiking on the hipster gauge, Alma Jodorowsky – granddaughter of Alejandro – plays Ana, a frustrated jingle-writer in 1978 in Paris who is beginning to see the landscape-shifting possibilities of the wall of synths and sequencers in the flat she is housesitting.

Collin is clearly a stan, the camera lovingly worshipping the banks of dials and knobs, the soundtrack overflowing with the likes of Nitzer Ebb, Throbbing Gristle and Jean-Michel Jarre, the retro-futuristic love-in extending to all manner of directional brown-and-orange furnishings. Ana has a full-blown techgasm when a friend turns up with a Roland CR-78 beatbox.

But, for a film that hymns the brave new synthetic world, it shows no capacity for a narrative shock of the new. Punctuated by on-the-nose rants about relegating the dinosaurs of rock music to a museum, Ana’s artistic journey is pure boilerplate; the same misunderstood game-changer schtick Hollywood routinely serves up from the likes of Step Up upwards.

It’s a missed opportunity, especially given The Shock of the Future’s feminist slant. If Ana is a proxy for electronica’s female groundbreakers, Collin doesn’t – beyond a couple of vaguely sleazy hangers-on with boundary issues – flesh out the kind of opposition, both on gender and aesthetic grounds, they faced. Which means the character can’t really function as a metaphor for the current generation of women looking, post-MeToo, for their own new wave.

Jodorowsky, shut in with her machines, gives a nicely tamped-down performance, but doesn’t have much to grip. The music’s fabulous, but the film is not fully awhirl – like Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden – with the sweep of the times.

The Shock of the Future is released in the UK on 13 September.

Source: The Guardian

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