Since the COVID-19 pandemic has put a pause on public gatherings the South by Southwest Film Festival has been forced to explore a new approach for its 2020 event. As a result four narrative features entered into the festival have been released for free and are currently streaming on Amazon until May 6 giving movie buffs the opportunity to see some arthouse movies that don’t often make the wide release rounds. I was super excited to check out a few of these films but the one that intrigued me most was a French feature called “Le Choc du futur” or “The Shock of the Future”. Exploring one young woman’s artistic efforts to embrace the rising trend of electronic music in the 70s “The Shock of the Future” is a relatively short production (running at 82 minutes long) that attempts to pay tribute to the women that paved the way for electronic music decades ago. It makes bold attempts to capture the artistic process and the frustrating gender bias of the industry, but the final result live leave just a little too much to be desired for some.
“The Shock of the Future” stars Alma Jodorowsky as Ana, a frustrated female musical artist in 1970s Paris who is struggling to find her sound in a time of changing musical taste. She is obsessed with electronic music convinced that it is the future of the medium, however most of the men she looks up to in the industry find it hard to accept a woman’s perspective or embrace her artistic vision. The film follows a 24-hour period where Ana attempts to perfect her sound and create something unique to show off to guests, including a renowned producer, at a party later that night. Directed by Marc Collin, who co-founded the cover band Nouvelle Vague that pays tribute to the new wave sound of France in the 70s, “The Shock of the Future” immediately draws you in with its raw, aged look and singular character focus taking its time to develop the woman we’ll spend nearly and hour and a half with while also making effective use of the electronic music that inspires her.
I found myself immediately gripped by the visual style of the film and Alma Jodorowsky’s engaging performance as a struggling artist in a man’s world. Jodorowsky brings to life a believable character trying to find a way to incorporate new age sound into her artistry. Piece by piece small things like a beat box and a talented commercial singer come into her life while she also receives inspiration from a multi-lingual fellow music lover who urges her to buck the status quo of the art. It all adds up to a fly-on-the-wall kind of experience where we are privy to the very intense and frustrating creative process Ana endures. Personally, I could relate. I’ve been there. As one who has formerly chased music dreams I remember sitting in my room sometimes for hours on end just waiting for inspiration to hit and this movie provides a decent insight into what that experience and frustration is like through one woman’s perspective. It also embraces a secondary purpose of showcasing the gender gap in music during its time period as Ana finds it difficult to be taken seriously by several men ind the industry. With all that character focus and subtext this truly is a film with a lot to say…so why does it feel like it takes way too long to say it?
Despite its short run time “The Shock of the Future” feels like it spins its wheels a lot. I mean I’m not against character development through visuals and extended long shots, but for everything this movie tries to say it feels at times that the filmmakers had to stretch things out in order to say it all in a feature length product. While the examination of the artistic process is very well done and by far the dominating concept of this film, it can feel a bit tedious. The addition of social commentary about women being overlooked in a males dominated business feels like it could have been explored a bit more. It only really plays a huge role in the climax although it is mentioned in passing at different points in the film to set up Ana’s eventually frustration in the final act. While I can respect Marc Collin’s artistic choice to keep the film confined to a single day in order to focus more on the life of a musician in that specific time constraint, I feel the film misses an opportunity to delve deeper into the complexities and struggles of its central character as well as the struggles of her gender in that business which would take more than just 24-hours to fully flesh out. Still for what we get it’s a decent and enjoyable examination of Ana’s struggles and the passion she has for the art of music.
Aside from the story and character study though, one of if not the most enjoyable part of this movie is the soundtrack. Featuring a mix of electronic songs including some written by Marc Collin himself “The Shock of the Future” makes great use of music in its narrative to help add energy to Ana’s day-long artistic struggle and give us some insight into her musical taste, what inspires her, and the revolution she’s trying to join. It really is worth watching this movie just to experience the soundtrack which feels carefully crafted to help the audience understand the beauty in electronic pop and without having to be spoon-fed us the nuances of the genre. Thus we can understand why Ana has fallen in love with this music because we, the audience, are allowed to fall in love with it too on our own terms. I found myself bobbing my head endlessly and even enjoyed the soundtrack on Spotify afterwards. It’s not often I dwell on the score or music of a film, but with a movie like this, which is completely based around musical artistry, it’s a very important part of the aesthetic. “The Shock of the Future” shows us that there’s legitimacy behind Ana’s revelations and artistic endeavors making it all the more frustrating when we see how much she struggles to earn recognition for it.
“The Shock of the Future” might feel like a product that could have done a lot more with its ideas and maybe tries too hard at times to justify its feature length run time, but overall it’s still an impressive film. It’s a love letter to the women that helped make electronic music such a revolutionary genre although I concede it could have done more to sell it’s sympathy towards women of the industry. Still, it’s a noble tribute nonetheless. Led by a memorable performance by Alma Jodorowsky and supported by a catchy and addictive soundtrack along with an appealing old-school visual style “The Shock of the Future” is a joy to experience in many ways. It’s not only a loving dedication to the women that helped transform music, but also to the artistic process as a whole which, given the right audience, is probably the most fascinating aspect of this film. I do feel like it had room for improvement but what we get is well above average and worth your time.