Simultaneously unassuming and passionate this beautiful documentary about the wonderful Scottish indie record label Chemikal Underground - but like all great docs, so much more as well - captures a specific moment in British music and something timeless about art and creativity.
The film cleverly frames the story around what seems like a trivial moment at the outset - a tiny festival in Mauron, France in the late 90s, which saw the Chemikal roster take a coach trip to perform to a handful of people in a tiny room in the middle of nowhere (figuratively speaking). Many of the now seminal Indie names who performed first time out take the same trip again, nearly 20 years later and reminisce on the original event, being on Chemikal and the passing of time for people who are interested in making good art in an age where making a living from art an entertainment is almost an alien concept.
Laced with caustic and laugh out loud Glaswegian comedy there is also a wealth of insight into the creative process and vision of the label and those signed to it from the founders of the label (and members of The Delgados) Stewart Henderson and Paul Savage, Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite and Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos (then of Chemikal band The Karelia), amongst others.
On the surface, Lost In France is for the perhaps niche audience that buys music by the bands on Chemikal but it would be a shame if that were the only people to seek the film out. At its heart this is a film about art and community and the erosion of both those ideas in the Western neo-liberal present. The participants argue that the dole is responsible for so much of a particular type of voice in recent British cultural history and they convince (although I don't need convincing) through passion and erudition. Like many recent music docs this means the film creates a melancholic air around it because we don't live in a world where the State or the spaces of the State - inner cities namely - care about or are open to driven, working class, artistic people. Alex Kapranos's energetic claim that Mogwai alone have put more money back into the tax system than they took out, covering possibly also the dole claims of those bands who didn't make it, resounds.
It's a political film in these senses but it works because it's not a rant piece. It's a thoughtful, contemplative and reflective road movie - literally and figuratively - whose points are scored and underscored by some of the most powerful and beautiful and unique music created on these Isles in recent memory.
Lost In France is a beautiful paean to a label, to bands and musicians, to a place and to a spirit.
Chemikal Underground Records
Edge City Films (Prod. Co.)
Lost in France Film Twitter