Sound Cinema [FringeTIX]
Bird Lantern @ The Deli
9:00pm, Mon 22 Feb 2010
I first saw Bird Lantern perform a set at The Jade Monkey two years ago, and was mightily impressed then; spying their name in The Guide was enough to warrant a place on The Shortlist, but reading the description – “a live re-scoring of silent, black and white films” – turned Sound Cinema into a must-see for me.
As, apparently, it did for many people; prospective punters were being turned away at the door in droves – this show, and the Tuesday night performance, were both sold out, and there were but a handful of tickets remaining for the third and final show. I wander out the back of The Deli, and it’s a very relaxed atmosphere… maybe forty or fifty people sitting around on benches, lounge chairs, rugs, cushions – just chilling, leaning towards the screen onto which we were going to be treated to some old silent classics.
I find myself sitting next to the film reviewer from The ‘Tiser, an amiable chap who occasionally whips out his phone to make a few notes. Bird Lantern (Greig Thomson and Al Thumm) introduce their concept to the crowd and fire up the first movie: Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune (Trip to the Moon) – a charmingly innocent film, rich in detail and – considering the fact that it’s over 100 years old now – technically impressive in its execution. The music underpinning this short (it’s a mere 8 minutes long) is laidback, some gentle grooves underpinning the frantic moon-men chase sequences punctuated by umbrella-smiting. Great stuff.
The main event, though, is Buster Keaton’s The General. It’s a really wonderful movie, though I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without the soundtrack that Bird Lantern provide – drivingly uptempo for Keaton’s brilliantly designed action sequences, dropping back to softly twee for the blank-faced romance scenes. The first plane to fly overhead seems to be perfectly timed to provide some extra oomph to the movie (and the soundtrack); unfortunately, subsequent flyovers are less considerate.
Sure, the boys had a few issues with the film restarting at a particular point (which looked like a problem with VLC to me). And Greig told me afterwards that they’d encountered a few discrepancies between their DVD copy of The General and the version they originally composed against. But it was a bloody great experience, watching these old movies reliant on their visual performances being underpinned by modern beats and loops.
(Greig also remembered me from that Jade Monkey gig two years ago, and had a couple of CDs of new creations for me to snaffle. How cool is that! :)