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  La Prochaine Fois  
  ntone/Ninja Tune  
  Riz Malen  
  There are not really any people in this film.  
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La Prochaine Fois: An Ambient Road Movie is a film by Riz Malen, who records music as Neotropic. This is, i think, her film debut. And, well, it's interesting. I guess.

It's less of a movie and more of a long video. That is to say, rather than telling a story this is series of visual images designed to accompany music. I would say that the music and the images work pretty well together, but i am really curious as to which came first. Did Neotropic record an album and then decide to make a film to go along with it, or did Malen shoot all of this footage and then compose some tunes to accompany it? Hmmm....

Apparently, the footage was filmed by Riz Malen and Brian Dougans (yes, that's Brian Dougans from F.S.O.L., who is spending his time joyriding across America rather than working on the follow up to Dead Cities....) while they were taking some sort of journey. Apparently across the US. I think. It's kinda hard to tell at times.

At any rate, it's a pretty cool video to accompany ambient music. There aren't really any vocals, and the music doesn't really tell a story, so pairing it with these images forces a type of narrative to come into being. It's as if the overlap between the storyless music and the unconnected imagery causes some sort of mood to come into being.

Actually, that sounds about right. Rather than conveying a story, the combination of sounds and images causes a sequence of moods in the viewer/listener. At first, the mood is excited, nervous, as the journey begins. Then there are phases of monotony (looped sequences, the boredom of travel), excitement, terror, and relaxation.

There are lots of images of the scene from a car window travelling through America. At some point, Malen and Dougans cross I-90 amd I-20. I think that i have been on I-90, but I-20 -- it stretches forever! Heck, Tracers lives off of I-20, but it also stretches through Dallas. Basically, i have no idea where they were. They did not make a point of filming those "Welcome To..." signs.

And i think that it doesn't matter. The specifics of the location are irrelevant. What's important are the images of everyday life that Neotropic has paired with her vaguely futuristic music.

Which is what struck me as odd while i watched the film. Having listened to previous Neotropic releases i would have guessed that the imagery in this film to be science-fiction. Neotropic's music makes me think of imagery like that in Blade Runner, a dark future of huge incomprehesible industrial structures. Instead, the music is paired with scenes of everyday America. A Days Inn. Cars on the Highway. People milling around a town square. It's an odd juxtaposition.

But the music is what makes the scenes. For example, there is a very eerie song called Rote that features deep rumbling keys, minor organ chords, and staccato breath samples. This is paired with images of people rollerblading in a park at sunset. The otherwise idyllic scene is made dark and creepy by the music. As if one of the rollerbladers is going to pull out a gun and start shooting!

One other thing to note is the filming technique. This movieappears as if it was filmed using one of those little hand-held camcorders. The shots are all jerky and fuzzy. It is Attention Deficit Disorder filming -- things jerk around and a new image appears before your eyes have fully explored the last image. I find it kind of disorienting, but i think that the point is that you only get a vague visual impression and focus mostly on the music.

And if you do that, it's nice enough. Neotropic manages to pull it off.

One problem i had with it was that the movie comes on the second CD of the 2CD release of the album. So i had to watch it on my laptop, which is unsatisfying. Heck, i have a nice 21 inch TV for watching stuff -- why would i want to be staring at this crappy monitor?

The movie is shot in widescreen, which makes me wonder if it was ever released in theatres. Maybe if i had a DVD release it would be cooler.... A minor complaint, i know, but there it is.

If you are a fan of ambient music, i recommend trying to track down the 2CD set of this album. The film is a very nice added bonus.

Related Links:
  A review of the album that contains the music for La Prochaine Fois.  

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