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  Future Shock 21st Century Blues
Year: 1972
Director: Alexander Grasshoff
Stars: Orson Welles, Alvin Toffler, various
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Orson Welles is a worried man. What's he fretting about? The future, that's what, the feeling that life is moving too fast, that technology is making such leaps and bounds in advancement that it will soon run away with humanity. Over the course of this documentary, he will outline the ideas and findings of famed futurologist Alvin Toffler whose book, also called Future Shock, has become a bestseller.

Nothing dates quite like the future and this film, apparently made to fill an hour long slot with commercials on television, has dated more fearsomely than most. Orson Welles here was at the height of his need to lend his name to various projects other than his own for money to fund his productions, and his sonorous tones and intellectual weight as usual made such projects, usually beneath him, seem more important than perhaps they really were.

Nevertheless, ideas about where we were all headed were still very much in vogue at the time, hence the popularity of so much speculation, whether in fiction or fact. What this looks like is perhaps more appropriate for a science class projector of the seventies, with interviews and dramatisations to illustrate the basic idea that the future is coming right at us at such a speed that it may well spell disaster for a society that is not ready to face it head on.

Most of the ideas of society in these times take realities and postulate what they will be like brought to what Toffler believes will be their logical conclusion. For example, transplant surgery and artificial body parts of course mean that we'll be creating mechanical people, never mind exactly what use a mechanical person would be; the film thinks it will prolong lifespans, but doesn't work out much else beyond the surface. Body modification also means we will be able to change our colour: cue a scene of orange and green people emerging from a lift, which surely can't have been especially convincing even in 1972.

And so on, with the familiar preoccupations of the day built up to earth-shattering proportions. There's a mondo movie appearance to quite a lot of this, particularly in alarmist, almost prurient, presentations of group marriage (yeah, that really caught on), communal living and - gasp! - gay marriage (something they got right). Elsewhere, we have good old cryonics (when was the last time someone was frozen in the hope they would be reawakened centuries from now?) and, erm, your morning IQ boosting pills and electric jump start feature, but it's easy to make fun of past ideas concerning what it would be like today. It's just that the tone is so pessimistic, as if all change is bad, that Future Shock comes across as absurdly digging its heels in to prevent progress. Music by Gil Melle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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