The Shock of the Future follows one day in the life of a composer named Ana (Alma Jodorowsky).
The year is 1978 and Ana is living in a studio in Paris. It’s not her studio. The owner is currently in India and no one knows when he’ll be returning. He’s lent it to Ana and she’s moved in. She shares the space with a truly impressive collection of synthesizer equipment. She swears, to everyone who stops by over the course of the day, that she can use the equipment to make wonderful music that will replace all of the dinosaur rockers who have outlived their usefulness. Some believe her. Some are skeptical.
Ana has been paid a good deal of money to write a commercial jingle but she has no interest in jingles, no matter how many times the sleazy ad guy (Phillippe Rebbot) drops by the studio and tries to intimidate her with his tough guy act. She doesn’t care about “50s rock” nor does she care about the “soft voices” of acoustic folk. Drummers, she says, are not necessary when she has a machine that can do the job. In fact, she doesn’t need a band at all! Rebbot is not particularly impressed and orders her to either write him a jingle or pay him back the money.
Throughout the day, more people drop by the apartment. Geoffrey Carey plays a friend who brings her the latest records from the UK. Teddy Melis shows up to deliver a piece of equipment and to smoke a joint. A singer (played by Clara Luciani) unexpectedly shows up and she and Ana bond over their mutual dislike of the sleazy men in the business and then proceed to work on a song together. It all leads to a party, in which Ana plays her new song for a dismissive producer who tells her that that “there’s something there” but it will never catch on. The producer is especially dismissive because the song’s lyrics are in English. “We are French!” he all but announces.
However, not all hope is lost. By the end of the film, we’ve been reminded that there actually is a world outside of Ana’s studio and that the future cannot be stopped….
The Shock of the Future is a deceptively simple film. Nearly the entire film takes place in one location and the majority of the action consists of people entering the studio, talking to Ana, and then eventually leaving. This is one of those films that I’m sure some people will watch and claim that there wasn’t enough of a story for the film to hold their interest. Of course, those people are wrong. The Shock of the Future is a film about the act of creation and anyone who creates for a living — whether they’re a composer like Ana or a writer like me or a photographer like my sister — will automatically be able to understand and relate to Ana’s story. If you’ve ever had someone dismiss your work by saying that it’s “too strange” or that it didn’t conform to whatever society’s current standards may be, you’ll relate to Ana. You will understand what she is going through and why she refuses to surrender to the condescending naysayers around her. All visionaries are initially dismissed by a world that’s not ready for them, by a world that’s not ready for the shock of the future. Alma Jodorowsky does a wonderful job in the role of Ana. There’s not a moment when she’s not onscreen and she’s compelling even when she’s just staring at her machines and waiting for inspiration to come.
The Shock of the Future is a tribute to the female pioneers of electronic music, the women who changed the direction of music and saved us from the tyranny of acoustic folk bullshit and who were often overlooked by future historians. The film ends with a dedication to the “women who pioneered in electronic music: Clara Rockmore, Wendy Carlos, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Elaine Rodrigues, Laurie Spiegel, Susan Ciani, Johanna Beyer, Bebe Baran, Pauline Oliveiras, Else Marie Pade, Beatriz Ferrerya, et al.” Ana serves as a stand-in for all of them and also as a stand-in for every artist who had the courage to follow their own vision. In the end, Ana is one of us and we are all Ana.