George Lucas's 1971 feature debut THX 1138 has never felt more prescient in its depiction of a future dystopia in which the populace are kept as docile workers by a ruthless authority manifested as faceless androids who beat the weak and vulnerable miscreants while proclaiming, “We only want to help you”. Pretty much spot on for much of the 99% populating this miserable western world in the aftermath of our own (financial) apocalypse.
Asian Dub Foundation have previous when it comes to providing live soundtracks for particularly provocative pieces of cinema. In recent years, they've also performed to Mathieu Kassovitz's La Haine and Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers. However, these two films are notable for the prominent radical political message they promote. THX 1138 can be read as a piece heavily influenced by Orwell's 1984 nightmare vision come true, but it can also be seen as a forerunner to the escapist fantasy fictions of Lucas's later work which will forever define him as a film-maker.
Just seeing THX 1138 on a big screen is a treat, the film looks wonderful with pin-sharp cinematography and future design motifs which seem to have perfectly predicted the sleekly functional and violently inhuman architectural spaces of the 21st century metropolis. ADF's soundtrack rattles and pulses ominously throughout the film's first half, unfortunately drowning out much of the movie dialogue spoken by Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance's protagonists. While it's a film easily followed through visuals and accompanying music, it does feel like the verbal nuances have been overlooked. At times it feels like ADF are playing a concept concert of mutant punk techno to backing images of cybernetic police states and social suppression.
Ultimately, it's the film which wins as Lucas's images are so searingly dazzling. But as the final half hour of THX 1138 detonates into a furiously fast-cut extended action sequence which has more than stood the test of 44 years, ADF respond by blazing away in kind. It's the perfect union of film and live performance demonstrating that for all the political determination present in ADF's presentation of this piece, what really gets people going is a full-pelt car chase with relentlessly charged musical accompaniment.
Event: 17 October, 2015