Peculiar choice of title aside (at no point does anyone get lost in France, either physically or spiritually), Lost in France is an unusual and not particularly audience-inclusive film, not least because it’s difficult to ascertain exactly who its audience is supposed to be.
Part music doc, part old-mates-having-a-get-together, Lost in France takes the bands of the Scottish record label Chemikal Underground on a nostalgic middle-aged return to the scene of a previous tour – however, this ideal-sounding setup for fond memories and hi-jinks never fully succeeds in evoking the past or conveying anything illuminating about the present. Instead there’s a severe lack of live music recordings (the few included are clear highlights), and too many wistful recollections and platitudes from members of seminal bands such as Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand, and The Delgados, which fail to give the film much animus or direction. It seems you “had to be there”.
At one point label head Stewart Henderson unwittingly provides an all-too-accurate critique of the film, when he questions why it was being framed around the original trip to France – which he fondly remembers, but crucially doesn’t regard as a particularly game-changing tour. The slightly forced and unnecessary self-mythologisation of the France framing device hampers the enjoyment of a perfectly likeable rock-doc, full of likeable people.
For all its reminiscence and nostalgia, Lost in France could do with less vague talk about the importance of independent music, and more direct and bombastic demonstrations of its urgency and awesome power.
Lost in France just does enough for pre-existing fans of Chemikal Underground and its roster of musicians – though there will be little to pique the interest of those not already au fait with their work. A sadly missed opportunity to show a new audience the incredible force of Scottish music.
CAST: Alex Kapranos, Stuart Braithwaite, Emma Pollock, Stewart Henderson, R. M. Hubbert
DIRECTOR: Niall McCann
WRITER: Niall McCann
SYNOPSIS: Music documentary Lost in France explores the rise of Scottish independent music during the ’90s under the Chemikal Underground record label, as told by some of the movement’s most seminal bands.