Lost In France
Niall McCann’s documentary focuses on a 1997 trip by Glasgow independent label Chemikal Underground’s trip to Mauron in France using some original footage interspersed by that of a return visit in 2012 with some of the key players of that memorable trip.
Fondly remembered-that is what can be remembered as chemicals and alcohol played a large part in the .proceedings- by several key participants who recall what they can of events for this film including Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, three quarters of The Delgados-Paul Savage, Stewart Henderson and Emma Pollock-, RM Hubbert and Alex Kapranos who made the journey prior to his Franz Ferdinand days. Grainy video footage provides essential visual confirmation of some recounted events and the graininess effectively presents it as hazy memories thus adding to the mystique and clouded judgment.
All the interviewees give surprisingly accurate and coherent accounts of what they remember but apart from Pollock and Kapranos none of them seem to have been treated too kindly by time. Therefore often the visual appeal of the film lacks the dynamic required for a film about the heady rock and roll lifestyle it so obviously wants to depict. Instead it relies on the articulacy of its contributors and luckily enough they all fulfil this criteria more than adequately with Braithwaite, Pollock, Henderson and Kapranos offering interesting insights and humorous anecdotes.
As stated before the video footage adds an extra dimension and although it is used sparingly and effectively the feeling lingers that perhaps a little more of this could have been included to provide a bit of visual treat as opposed to yet another middle aged man sitting in a bar talking about his misspent youth ‘back in the day’.
The film hinges on a return trip to the town of Mauron where those who made the trip give a repeat performance in a hastily assembled super-group. It is with a rendition of Franz Fedinand’s ‘Jacqueline’ that the film really feels like a rock and roll documentary for the first time and it is telling that it is with the inclusion of a song by a band that hadn’t even been formed on the original trip.
Often it feels as if Kapranos is there as a box office draw as although he was present on the earlier trip he wasn’t a central figure but despite this he is an interesting interviewee with a keen observer’s viewpoint. As the major success story of that scene it is also good to see him acknowledging his roots whilst affording them some respect.
If I am honest I found this film a little self indulgent and I can’t imagine it would hold much interest to a wider audience apart from those with a keen knowledge of the Chemikal Underground roster. Unlike last year’s EIFF offering ‘Big Gold Dream’ which focussed on the Edinburgh post punk scene there is distinct lack of charismatic characters- Kapranos and Pollock are the obvious exceptions- and it tends to drag towards the end. Definitely one for the fans who will no doubt love all the recounting of a mid-late nineties Glasgow scene they played some part in, but if you weren’t there this film is unlikely to make you wish you were.
Lost In France is showing at Odeon 2 on Thursday June 16 at 20.55

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