DIR/WRI: Niall McCann • WRI: David Birke • PRO: Nicky Gogan, Paul Welsh • DOP: Julian Schwanitz • ED: Nicky Gogan, Cara Holmes • CAST: Stuart Braithwaite, Stewart Henderson, Alex Kapranos
Friendship is a fickle thing. It can bring great rewards and it can break hearts. No two friendships are quite the same. Those forged in the fires of intense settings such as the workplace, school and the creative process are often the hardiest. Friendship is, ultimately, what Niall McCann’s new documentary Lost in France is about. Oh, and music too. Lots of great music.
The Delgados, Mogwai, Bis, Franz Ferdinand and Arab Strap were all Glaswegian bands connected to the Delgados’ music label Chemikal Underground at one point or another. In 1997 these bands along with various others went to play some shows in Mauron, France. In 2015 a few returned to relive old memories, reconnect with old friends, and remember one of the turning points in the Scottish music scene. McCann combines old VHS footage, new talking-head interviews and footage shot in both Glasgow and Mauron in 2015 to highlight just how much has changed.
It’s safe to say the original trip to France in 1997 was not a safe or sane idea to begin with. Packing fifty-something young Scottish people onto a bus sounds like a recipe for disaster and it almost was but this is where the documentary’s humour is strongest. From nearly losing a band member to the English Channel to the bus driver being constantly inebriated right up to the intense, destructive shows themselves McCann never fails to catch the funny side. Now the likes of Stewart Henderson of the Delgados, Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai and Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand have calmed down a great deal. Their music has veered away from punk-rock closer to the folk stylings of their home country. McCann captures both the fire of their younger selves and the more meditative side of things in his interviews.
Stewart Henderson, the former bassist for the Delgados and current co-owner of Chemikal Underground, is the lead focus of the documentary. McCann gives everyone their moment in the sun but Henderson gets to bask in the light that much longer and with good reason too. More successful bands such as Mogwai and Franz Ferdinand have gone onto great success both at home and abroad. Meanwhile plenty of acts like the Delgados have broken up due to a lack of deserved success. Henderson explains why this is but his frustration is clear. As bigger bands go on to great success, others with the same degree of talent that lack big label support eventually give in to socioeconomic pressure and call it quits.
The state of the music industry at large can be viewed in the microcosm that is the Glasgow music scene. Bands like Mogwai, Franz Ferdinand and even younger bands such as CHVRCHES have gone from playing small shows at working-class clubs and venues to festival mainstages and stadium tours. Other bands such as Bis, Arab Strap and the former members of the Delgados never quite escaped the working-class roots of their hometown. Henderson states that nothing will change unless the industry does.
Lost in France is a bittersweet and often hilarious tale of friendship, sheer luck and the absolute power music can have. Its message is one of get up and go. Regardless of what regrets some of McCann’s subjects had in the intervening years it’s clear that trip to Mauron was not one of them. According to Lost in France nothing trumps the power of music or friendship.
Lost in France is released 3rd March 2017