Movie Review: Synthesizers, a beat box and a French gamine inspired by them — “Le choc du futur (The Shock of the Future)”

A pretty young French musician tries to surf the coming electronica wave in Paris in “Le choc du futur,” a “musician finds her sound” tale set in 1978.

The film isn’t a tale of triumph over adversity, paddling against the musical current or getting in on the ground floor of a sound that would come to dominate music, although all that is in here, with lip service paid to the “bourgeois” music of the present — disco and guitar rock.

“You know the ’80s are coming,” Ana (Alma Jodorowsky) shouts (in French with English subtitles) at some grizzled producer/naysayer (Philippe Rebot) whose commercial she has just blown off.

“Le choc” is about “the future,” but also about the sexist, retrograde environment Ana is trying to make her music in. Guys are hitting on her, dismissing her, making excuses for her and reminding her how unheard of it is for “a chick to do music” and know how to manipulate the much-more complex synthesizers of the time.

But we watch doors opened, money lent, allowances made and a tech who came over to fix her wall-sized synthesizer/sequencer set-up as a favor then agree, without his bargained for “kiss,” to lend her one of the first beat-boxes ever made. Ana may not be “working it” to get her way, but she’s certainly using her looks to get to “yes.” She’s playing with a double-edged sword.

She is staying in a “friend’s” flat, and using all “his” electronics, although at least she brought her own keyboard. She blows off deadlines and still hopes to have something to play for the record company heavyweight she’s invited to a big party tonight — in her friend’s flat.

Idealistic, impatient, inspired and spoiled, she has yet to learn “the artists who succeed are the ones who check their answering machines.” And “they” have yet to learn that the sound of “today” isn’t “Le choc du futur (the shock of the future).”

Jodoroskwy’s focused performance has moments that mirror Ana’s tightrope walk. An opening scene has the star of the notoriously sexy “Blue is the Warmest Color” exercising, unself-consciously, in her underwear.

The film star is playing up her sexuality the way the character is constantly being reminded of the same thing. “You’re a pretty girl, you should be a singer.”

The character’s a tad irritating, in that “doors open for beautiful women, and still they complain” sort of way. But she’s intriguing, in that “Will she ever get off her lazy ass and do the work” sort of way.

One fun scene scene has Geoffrey Carey as a friend, an older British record collector, come in and show off the new electronic LPs he’s scored, the true pioneers in this transition from electronic “space music” and disco to New Wave, which would synthesize the two. Here’s the latest from the Belgian Aksak Maboul. And there’s this “great new band” in Sheffield, Human League.

The enduring French disco queen Corinne plays herself as an early-adaptor of synthesizer-backed disco-pop.

And then there’s the singer (Clara Luciani) who improvises lyrics and a vocal style to front Ana’s “new sound” — dreamy, breathy, romantic. It’s kind of a backhanded compliment to suggest just how little might have gone into creating a beat and rhythmic sound textures of electronica, and even less that went into the lyrics.

But Ana is preaching about the coming “new way” of listening to music and performing it, suggesting “trance” music a decade before that was born.

This brief, fictional film doesn’t have the scope or the ambition and intent to be the last word on a music and an era. It’s not “24 Hour Party People,” after all. “Le choc du futur” still does an engaging job of introducing a time and a place, and just what a woman like Ana might have to put up with, on top of getting people to accept her “future,” to make a mark in music.

MPA Rating: unrated, drug use, profanity

Cast: Alma Jodorowsky, Philippe Rebot, Clara Luciani and Laurent Papot.

Credits: Directed by Marc Collin, script by Marc Collin, Elina Gakou Gomba. Now streaming on Film Movement+.

Running time: 1:18

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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