Jazz: Two men with a movie soundtrack
In the Kitchen: Man with a Movie Camera Watershed, Bristol John Barry: Bond and Beyond Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Sunday 25 April 1999
That In the Kitchen are brothers seems particularly apt, for the arts in the early Soviet era were notable for siblings such as the Vesnins, the Stenbergs, and Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner. For Man With A Movie Camera, the director's own brother, Boris Kaufman, played the title role. Improbable as it seems, Kaufman later became a celebrated cinematographer in Hollywood, shooting On the Waterfront for Elia Kazan.
As a film, Man with a Movie Camera was both of its time and years ahead of it. A document of a summer's day in Moscow, it uses self-consciously theoretical montage to juxtapose separate settings, characters and moods, but it does so with such vigour and vim, and by employing so many tricks and special effects, that in many ways it's the foundation not only for subsequent "creative" (ie, untrue) documentaries such as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, but the genres of pop and corporate video as well.
In the Kitchen's soundtrack can't help but emphasise the pop-video parallels. Comprised of relatively lush, "intelligent" techno, the music adds a contemporary feel to a film whose joyous celebration of modernity in all its forms still seems fresh. While Vertov's hymning of dams, trams and industrial machinery might have made it through the ideological filters into the era of Socialist Realism that followed, his democratic delight in bobbed hair-dos and plus fours sadly didn't. Sun-tans as tawny as Coco Chanel's, remarkably advanced lingerie, disorientating points of view, and a playful delight in almost everything still communicate a powerful shock of the new. Seeing the film for the first time, I found it almost overwhelming. Although In the Kitchen's techno is less "industrial" than it could have been, its unashamed populism does Dziga Vertov proud.
The film music of John Barry celebrates modernity too, although the later the date of the score, the less modern it tends to sound. In The James Bond Suite, which closed last Wednesday's "Bond and Beyond" concert at Symphony Hall, the famous theme tune (written by Monty Norman but arranged by Barry) sounded bigger and better than ever. In the hands of the 90- piece English Chamber Orchestra, the loping pulse, swirling strings and rat-tat-tat brass attack was monumental, while the rearranged themes from other Bond films recalled their snobbery and violence perfectly.
The rest of the programme showed that, as a composer for films with 120 movies to his name, Barry has learnt to serve up atmosphere above all else. Perhaps as a result, the music - even from movies as familiar as Out of Africa or Dances With Wolves - tends to hang in the air for a minute or two and then disperse without leaving much trace, just like the dry ice that was being pumped into the hall at the beginning of the performance. If there was rarely enough harmonic density to justify the Mahler-sized orchestra, two excerpts from Barry's latest film, Playing By Heart (also the title of his new album for Decca), were excellent. Taking the music of Chet Baker as the inspiration for noirish Fifties jazz, guest star Chris Botti's limpid trumpet solos were as redolent of rain-sleeked LA streets as one could wish for.
'Man With A Movie Camera' with In the Kitchen: Manchester Cornerhouse (0161 200 1500), Wed; Sheffield Showroom (0114 275 7727), Thurs; Nottingham Broadway (0115 952 6611), Fri.
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