Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow in Marc Collin’s “Le Choc du Futur” | SXSW 2020 Review

Today is Yesterday’s Tomorrow in Marc Collin’s “Le Choc du Futur” | SXSW 2020 Review

I’m going to begin at the end.  Right before the credits roll on Marc Collin’s debut feature, Le Choc du Futur (The Shock of the Future), there is a message: “This film is dedicated to every female pioneer who participated in the birth and recognition of electronic music worldwide.” The film is an artists’ fictional depiction of a real-life revolutionary step forward in the music industry. Similar to Danny Boyle’s 2015 film Steve Jobs, which amalgamates Jobs’s life to overlap with the presentation of three product launches across his career, Le Choc du Futur is about the discovery of electronic music but takes place in essentially a single location over the course of one day.

The movie’s protagonist, Ana, is a musician and composer. She needs to have a tape of her music ready in order to work with a singer, but when her client comes by to pick it up, she’s not ready, and can’t play anything because her sequencer isn’t working. At this point in 1978, there is electronic music but all the synths and sounds are used in conjunction with real instruments. The real issue here is that she doesn’t feel inspired to create anything new. Ana has reached a creative wall. When she calls someone to fix the machine, the worker brings a brand-new drum machine. When played for Ana, everything changes and she realizes music can be fully electronic.

Throughout the film she is visited by men who all have opinions on her lifestyle and career choice because she is a woman. Her boss questions her work ethic, the man with the drum machine criticizes a woman’s treatment of such a machine, and a male customer of Ana’s side job as a masseuse says she should be a singer due to her pretty face. But when she is works with a female singer who’s been similarly mistreated on a new fully electronic song they create something unique. This music is like Ana’s child: she’s remarkably proud of it and will defend it to the ends of the Earth.

Marc Collin, the movie’s director and co-writer, is a French musician and film composer who works with electronic music, often in conjunction with acoustic instrumentation. His love for the revolution of electronic music plays out through Ana’s own passion. No matter how many times she is told she’s crazy or that there’s no market for the music she’s trying to make, she argues in long monologues arguing that this is the future, no matter what. As they near the ‘80s she points out how with every decade there is a progression with art and particularly with music. The late ‘60s was the real beginning of rock-and-roll but the transition into the ‘70s brought on psychedelia followed by disco, which brought on the club scene. The ‘80s would expand upon disco to create what we now refer to as electronic music.

Collin’s co-writer was Elina Gakou Gomba, who has worked as a writer for French films and television. Having a woman’s perspective adds reality to the character. Too often in Hollywood does the male gaze overshadow stories that should have been from the point of view of a woman. And usually when a man takes the helm as both writer and director they solely take on those responsibilities. In Le Choc du Futur the dialogue and characters feel natural and even in the silences, Ana’s frustrations are understood. The performances are raw and every character is clearly defined allowing the story to feel lived in.

A film about music should also have a good soundtrack. Collin, himself a composer, made all the music that Ana herself is working on, but there’s some good additions contributing even more reality to Ana’s lifestyle. A French-speaking English friend of hers brings her music to listen to including Suicide’s Teardrop Frankie and Throbbing Gristle’s United, both early examples of fully electronic music that fell into the even more niche genre of electropunk. Though even Ana couldn’t really jive with it, its deep-cut nature is lovely for music lovers and connoisseurs who recognize it to smile at, and for virgin ears to expand their horizons. Later in the film François Hardy’s Le temps de l’amour plays just barely for a moment, as if to say that the hits of France are not what we the viewer should focus on. If you don’t know Hardy’s song by name chances are you’ve heard it as it has been used across film and television, but we are supposed to look to the future and hope for Ana to debut her music to a positive response.

The use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound is also at play here. Diegetic sound is noise made on screen, so a diegetic song is played by a character or on the radio and exists in the world of the film. Non-diegetic sound is what most soundtracks consist of, when music is played over the scene but is heard only by the audience, not the characters on screen. The editor, Yann Malcor, carefully transitions between the two techniques making Ana’s music both the diegetic and non-diegetic soundtrack.

Taking place mostly in Ana’s apartment creates a sort of focus point for the character. The editing cuts constantly between Ana and her equipment which is all across her house. The cinematography settles in for long hand-held takes engaging the audience even when nothing is happening. Even while Ana is juggling her constant stream of visitors she is never distracted or deterred from the work at hand and it feels as though we’re right there with her.

The film’s dedication specifically names several female pioneers of electronic music including, Delia Derbyshire and Wendy Carlos, who both created music that’s recognizable even today. Derbyshire composed Doctor Who’s main theme, and Carolos composed the soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and Steven Lisberger’s TRON. Often the director, actor, or studio gets the attention and acclaim for a film or television series; however, without the music, the picture would be incomplete. Beyond that underappreciation is the underlying struggle of a woman achieving their dream in any field. It’s important for films like this to remind everybody that many figures who shaped society worked behind the scenes were female. Scorsese would be nothing without his editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, and last year’s Joker would be unsympathetic if not for Hildur Gu∂nadóttir’s score.

However understandable, it’s unfortunate that South by Southwest Festival had to be cancelled and a shame that films like this will not have their chance to shine for a while. It’s tremendous that Amazon is screening some of the planned lineup via Prime Video, accessable even without a Prime subscription, and I urge you to watch Le Choc du Futur especially, as well as the others. The message of this movie is to give attention to the little guy because something profound may just come from it. Le Choc du Futur is interesting, engaging and most of all shines light on an unnecessary shadow.

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