THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE (LE CHOC DU FUTUR) is not based on the life of any single individual, but its protagonist is an amalgam of several female pioneers who, in the words of the film, participated in ‘the birth and recognition of electronic music worldwide.’
You can tell that the setting is Paris, as everyone speaks French and smokes a lot of cigarettes. This is Paris in the late 1970s, however, and young Ana (Alma Jodorowsky) is playing around with synthesisers, pushing the boundaries of music just like the abstract expressionists in the decades before challenged the conventional definition of art. Director Marc Collin clearly enjoys that era’s aesthetics; the camera lingers on cassette tapes and vinyl discs that will give those old enough to remember the 1970s an enjoyable nostalgia trip.
Alma Jodorowsky gives an energetic and likeable performance as Ana, displaying an infectious excitement when she is at work on her machine. THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE is a film about music, and the electronic beats will soon have even sceptics bobbing their heads along in rhythm. We also get an insight into the everyday sexism women then, and likely still today, had to endure in the music industry.
THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE is strongest in its first half, contained entirely within Ana’s flat where she experiments with her music. Whilst the relationship between Ana and her synthesiser is engaging, the other characters in the film are as flimsy as the plot. Characters move in and out of Ana’s life, but most of these encounters are so brief, it’s hard to care about any of the supporting characters. A series of scenes are set at a party hosted by Ana and depict, if anything, the chaotic noisiness of a social gathering too well: who are all these people, and why should we pay any attention to them?
Although THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE is feminist in its depiction of a creative young woman daring to go against the norm through her art, Ana is frustratingly dependent on male characters for advice or support. The film seems to envision female independence as only extending so far. THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE succeeds best when it allows Ana, and her music, to speak for herself. Ana passionately defends electronic music against the scepticism of an older man, arguing that “the new generation doesn’t give a shit about rock music and all the psychedelic bullshit! That shit is over!” In this way, the film is about more than just electronic music.
THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE explores the generational divisions that are arguably a feature of every generation. Today, it might be hard to get as excited about electronic music as Ana and her friends do in the film, as it lacks for us the originality that is so awe-inspiring for them. Nevertheless, THE SHOCK OF THE FUTURE is a gentle and pleasant paean to a genre of music that continues to thrive to this day.