Lost In France 15A
A snapshot of two very different times in the life of Scotland's Chemikal Underground label, Niall McCann follows up Art Will Save The World (his documentary on The Auteurs' Luke Haines) with this more open and easy-going venture. In 1995 the roster of Chemikal Underground – Mogwai, Arab Strap, The Delgados, etc - were invited to Maron, France for a weekend. It was one of those moments in time when a group of bands forging ahead with their own sound first grabbed the public attention; in 2015 the band members return to Maron to reminisce about that weekend but also about how different they are in outlook now…
"We always felt we were outsiders, musically." McCann's approach mirrors this thinking: Lost In France isn't a straightforward documentary, opting to dispense with the expected approach of a career retrospective, plaudits for the albums by critics, an exploration of the mid-nineties Glasgow scene, and the buzz around the 13th Venue. All that is here, sure, but McCann tosses them in willy-nilly, possibly mimicking the ramshackle and ill-planned tour itself. The result is an exciting mixture of thundering music (it's loud!) and nostalgic stories - a real heady brew of (very grainy) archive footage and contemporary interviews as the band look back on who they were then and how the disconnect they feel when presented with photos of their younger selves. The low-key, acoustic gigs of 2015 contrast greatly with the noisenik 1995 footage.
If it comes across like its thrown together, McCann's real work is in not letting his documentary descend into one of those Remember When escapades, like listening to people you hardly know endlessly bang on about a mad night they had twenty years ago. When they do allow themselves to indulge in nostalgia, the stories are never of the 'you had to be there' variety to enjoy; the bands are so enthusiastic, so inviting, so amiable and without any pretension. The camaraderie really comes across.
Franz Ferdinand's Alex Krapanos may be the most famous face on show but McCann decides to keep him in the background for the most part, having him turn up every now and then for a jam; but the director puts him front and centre for his thoughts on the importance of the dole in giving creative people the time to, well, create.
For the serious musos in the audience (and let's face it, that's going to be everyone), all live songs played gets a title, the album it's taken from, and (be still your pretentious heart) the label catalogue number.
Review by Gavin Burke | 14:19 | Thursday 23rd February 2017 | Movie Review