Ever since clubbing and Rave culture existed, the film industry has tried to explore it. From anything as far back as Hackers, with its club music soundtrack and day glo fashions, through to classics like Human Traffic and It’s all Gone Pete Tong, There’s been a fascination with trying to explain what we enjoy to the rest of them.
Some DJ movies get it right, with Human Traffic and It’s all Gone Pete Tong really capturing the essence of UK and Ibiza clubbing at the time of their making. Some wear their naivity on their sleeve, like Kevin and Perry Go Large. Some get it terribly, terribly wrong, like US film GO, which, while released at pretty much the same time as Human Traffic, completely misses the point of Rave culture by turning it into a madcap caper movie starring a wishy washy Dawson’s Creek cast off. Maybe it’s just that it’s taken so long for the American mainstream to figure out where it fits in to the global Dance Music scene, but suffice to say, we Brits do make great clubbing films.
There are two upcoming films talking about our little corner of the world, both with very different impressions from the trailers. I think it’s prudent to reserve full judgement before they’re actually out, but it doesn’t take a genius to see how differently Hollywood and the indie film industry treat subjects such as these.
We Are Your Friends (2015)
“We Are Your Friends” is about what it takes to find your voice. Set in the world of electronic music and Hollywood nightlife, an aspiring 23-year-old DJ named Cole (Efron) spends his days scheming with his childhood friends and his nights working on the one track that will set the world on fire. All of this changes when he meets a charismatic but damaged older DJ named James (Bentley), who takes him under his wing. Things get complicated, however, when Cole starts falling for James’ much younger girlfriend, Sophie (Ratajkowski). With Cole’s forbidden relationship intensifying and his friendships unraveling, he must choose between love, loyalty, and the future he is destined for.
The exhilarating new film from Mia Hansen-Løve (Father Of My Children, Goodbye, First Love) is a semi-biographical drama about the rise of the ‘French touch’ electronic music scene in the 1990s, one that spawned worldwide superstars like Daft Punk and Cassius.
With a narrative spanning two decades, EDEN revolves around aspiring Parisian DJ, Paul (the captivating Félix de Givry), as he steps into the underground dance music scene. Raves dominate, but he’s drawn to the more soulful rhythms of Chicago’s garage house movement. He and best friend Stan form a duo and drop out of daytime society in their all-encompassing pursuit of ceaseless beats and bass, emotional and pharmaceutical highs, and a string of relationships (excellent support here from Greta Gerwig, Laura Smet and Pauline Etienne).
Bonus: Beat Girl (2013)
“Beat Girl” follows Heather’s journey through music. The crossroads she finds herself at, the paths she chooses and the discoveries these new paths lead to. Heather realises that music is inseparable from who we are, our emotions, our dreams and the people we love… Without them life, just like music, would not make sense.
It’s all part of our culture
Personally, Both Hackers and Human Traffic were part of forming my perception of Dance Music, DJing and clubbing. Out of these three, the one that definitely appeals the most is Eden, with Beat Girl reminds me of an episode of an old Channel 4 documentary called Faking It, where a classically trained cellist is taught by Hard House DJ Ann Savage to become a club DJ in just a month. And it’s not just because it features some of the history of the elusive French legends that will be come the iconic robot duo, Daft Punk (Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter). Or that I can happily sit through the French-speaking bits without reading [most of] the supbtitles. It seems to gel as a much more genuine film. What struck me, though, is just how wildly different the US and French trailers are, not just in language, but also in the tone, and what they say of the story.
There are lots of DJ and clubbing films out there, some suck, some are essential viewing, but one thing is consistent across the whole spectrum: they all have absolutely storming soundtracks… snapshots of what was happening in electronic music at the time they were out. Search for any of these films on YouTube, you can maybe get the chance to watch the full things.
Regardless of how these films turn out, we should accept them as part of our culture. They all help to tell the bigger story about where we came from, who we are and why we do what we do, whether you’re playing to 25 people in a dank basement, or staring over your laptop at a bunch of frat boys chugging on red cups beside a pool in Miami.
Since we’re all DJs, and that’s what we want to see in our films, I’ll leave you with one of the greatest sequences you’ll ever witness. Anyone that played vinyl and hit the record shops regularly will quite possibly get Vietnam-style flashbacks, cold sweats and shakes.