Friday, March 11, 2016

FUTURE SHOCK: Orson Wells brings us Beyond the Black Rainbow

I had the pleasure of watching the late Orson Wells narrate/star in FUTURE SHOCK, a mid-1970s schlocky documentary about how too much change too quickly could destroy (western) society.

I remember the book, and it's interesting cover on my grandfather's book shelf when I was a child. He was an avid reader of Vonnegut and JFK assassination theories - disseminated in the pre-digital age as small novelette-sized printed books. The original film (which was originally created for screening at the Cannes Film festival) feels like something my grandfather would have enjoyed:

Aside from the synthy music, what struck me about the documentary was how seriously it took it self. "We're faced with so many choices, so many decisions, and we have to make them so quickly. None of us can escape the pressures. That's what future shock is all about." Orson Wells reads this dramatically over '70s disco montage music showing various things people can purchase, including 8-track tapes. While incredibly dated, that's part of the charm of this 'documentary'. From a modern point of view, it documents a future that never came to pass - at least not in the form predicted.
Consistently, FUTURE SHOCK (perhaps intentionally), blended 'modern day' late '60s/ early '70s footage into what it predicted will be the future.  At times, I couldn't tell if they were showing an interview with a person from the '70s about science, pharmacology, hitch hiking or polyamorous living, - or if those sections were intended to be set in some distopian 'future'. The aim seemed to gleefully revel at change, and simultaneously communicate how TERRIFYING this change was, and that you shouldn't like it.

I decided to watch BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW afterwards: it's a modern film set and styled as occurring in 1983 which deals with similar issues. Playing the ending of FUTURE SHOCK over top of this films' cassette tape-style introduction created a nice bridge - almost as if FUTURE SHOCK was a spiritual prequel to Panos Cosmatos film:

The intro 'Promotional' video above for the Arboria Institute above is the beginning to BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW. This film is fictionally set in the same time frame as FUTURE SHOCK, and it provides an interesting segway: it posits that the disposable, futuristic society Wells drones about actually comes to pass in the form of Huxley's Brave New World -- an assembly line society where everyone is medicated by a societal elite. People struggle to cope in this dark, 'future shocked' world, and turn instead to 'benign pharmacology, sensory therapy, and energy sculpting, " to find "contentment and inner peace". 

Be sure to check out the article about FUTURE SHOCK at which goes into some interesting detail about the production and the ideas within.

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