Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Flying Bowler Hats, Batman!

If I had questions about the use of music with silent artfilms yesterday, then I was doubly conflicted today. With films by Duchamps, Leger, Richter, Man Ray and Dali/Bunuel, the emphasis was on abstraction. In the case of Duchamps his mad spinning spirals and nonsensical aphorisms have no narrative, shouldn't have a narrative and did not warrant the narrative push 3epkano lent through their music. To reach a musical climax was inappropriate (a Steve Reich approach of a constant tone would have been more suitable).
I have seen Leger's piece, 'Ballet Mechanique' several times before, and it worked far better with the live accompaniment, though the clue to this success was in the title. Conceived with a musical sensibility, the film was a musical experience waiting to happen. Consequently music and film worked well.
The sound original of Hans Richters' 'Ghosts Before Breakfast' was destroyed by the Nazis (as degenerate art), so this silent version did warrant a score. 'Ghosts Before Breakfast' is a madcap mix of animation and live action. It really enervates me to see such a playful approach to cinema, and Richters' flying bowler hats are as playful as you can get. The joy of experimenting with a new medium comes across in every frame, and is something very rare today.

(I just read Paul Hindemith and Darius Milhaud are in the cast!!!!!!!!!!! MAD!)

Man Ray's 'L'Etoile de Mer' started well with a beautiful use of a warped glass filter, but it didn't go anywhere. Pretentious and dull, a close-up of a live starfish formed its only highlight.
Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuels' first collaboration, 'Un Chien Andalou' is infamous for many reasons (not least because of the razor-splitting-eye shot). However, it should never be regarded too seriously; it is meant to be funny. Picture for instance the two priests being dragged along with the pianos and dead donkeys. Maybe it's to heighten the humour that Bunuel scored the film already with music from Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'. One way or the other, 3epkano's music was unnecessary and far too downbeat. It didn't detract, but it didn't contribute either.
Of course, you buy into the show when you buy your ticket. I may have been going primarily for the movies, but they weren't the reason for the show; 3epkano the ensemble were. As such they put on an excellent performance. Despite a little too much emphasis on cello and electric guitar, they are an excellent group and what they do is a worthwhile experiment. If it's also a reason to show some neglected films, so much the better. Good stuff.


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