Sunday, 27 October 2013

Praise the Lloyd… For Heaven's Sake (1926)


It's hard to talk about Harold Lloyd without dragging the “other two” into it, but he stands out for being perhaps the most naturalistic of the great silent comics - a perfectly ordinary guy stuck in the middle of madness.

In Charlie and Buster’s case, they were clearly asking for trouble and took it all in their relentless stride, here Lloyd is no different, but he just looks more... normal. Handsome and well-dressed, his characters represented city man against the upsets of random fortune in a world far more cruel than any of us care for.

Smartly directed by Sam Taylor and produced by Lloyd himself, this was one of the highest grossing films of 1926 – the 12th highest grossing silent film – and yet it wasn’t one of his favourites and he even considered shelving it.

It was his first feature for Paramount and maybe there’d been too much creative interference? But certainly the company’s promotional strength helped pushed the film high.

Maybe it was one of those moments when everything clicks and the audience is ready to really acknowledge the skills of the performer: maybe Lloyd was owed some more success. He made many films in the Twenties and grossed more than Chaplin’s even though that was more through weight of numbers: Charlie took his time. With For Heaven’s Sake, maybe he wasn’t breaking new ground but he was re-treading some of the funniest and most daring tracks in the business: his own.

Starting the car
The film features numerous examples of Lloyd’s meticulous attention to detail, inventiveness and daring… Throughout it all he remains in character as the college-kid who always lands on his feet… even if a speeding train, explosion or vehicle pile-up threatens to remove his legs.

Harold plays an Uptown Boy, J. Harold Manners, a millionaire who sails through life unscathed even if the same cannot be said for his motor vehicles.

Downtown and uptown coffee
Agreeing to meet his buddies in some frightfully authentic Italian café in downtown, he gets lost and ends up near the free coffee cart run by the philanthropic Brother Paul (Paul Weigel). Harold succeeds in setting fire to the contraption and agrees to pay Paul well over the odds to cover the inconvenience.

The money is enough for the old man to fulfill his dream of starting a mission and his pretty young daughter, Hope (Lloyd regular, Jobyna Ralston) – The Downtown Girl – believes it was her writing to Manners that persuaded him to be so generous.

But Harold doesn’t want any ostentatious do-gooding and arrives to take issue with his name being used only to fall completely for Hope…

Manners meets his match
Thereafter, Harold can’t do enough to help and in one of the film’s funniest scenes, rallies up all the local thugs by annoying them and leading them straight to the Mission. The police arrive, thereby ensuring order and Harold becomes something of a hero by helping his new comrades hide their loot…

(Borrowed) clothes maketh the man
The former thugs begin to frequent the Mission, maybe not so much for the hymn singing as the chance to learn safe-cracking, although this aspect is not dwelt on (Paramount’s interference?) and the story quickly focus on romance as Harold and Hope announce their marriage.

There’s a wonderful scene in which Harold and Hope are seemingly sitting on a beach only for the camera to pan up and reveal their true location in a junk yard.

By the light of the laundry moon...
But, the film’s anything but finished as Harold’s kidnapping by his well-healed chums leads to a drunken rescue from his new friends followed by the funniest sequence of the film as Harold tries to heard these inebriated reprobates back to his wedding: they fall out of cars, balance high and buses, dangle off the sides and generally run riot.

The benefits of open-topped trolley buses...
It’s ten minutes of brilliant, memorable mayhem - so well crafted by Lloyd and his stunt performers - and it feels like the whole film has been building up to these moments.

If there’s a message here it’s surely that class doesn’t make you happy, only friendship and love and, in truth, that’s when Harold Lloyd becomes the most natural comedian: when he realises that he mustn’t miss his chance for happiness.

Jobyna Ralston
Jobyna Ralston is superb as the vision of Hope – she was an experienced foil for Lloyd by this stage, whilst Paul Weigel makes a good dreamer. But it’s the supporting mess of bums, rough-necks and assorted , reprobates that steal the show especially at the end: very much like an inebriated anti-Keystone Cops.

Catching the bus...
 For Heaven’s Sake is available as part of the great value The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection Vol. 3.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

A terrible beauty… The Epic of Everest (1924) with Simon Fisher Turner, London Film Festival

“The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use’.” George Mallory

A few years ago they found the body of George Mallory on Everest, it was almost perfectly preserved and frozen to the scree on which he died in 1924 after falling at something like 27,000 feet. It was the eeriest of sights: life and death from history suddenly laid before us on screen, arms out-stretched in a failed attempt to slow his fall on the killer rockslide. He was 37 and left behind a wife and young family along with the mystery of whether or not he and his partner Andrew “Sandy” Irving made the final stage of the ascent.

Andrew Irvine, George Mallory, Edward O. Shebbeare, Capt C. Geoffrey Bruce, Lt Col Edward F. Norton, Dr. T. Howard Somervell, Noel E. Odell, Bentley Beetham and John MacDonald.
Why do people attempt the impossible? There is an irresponsibility and recklessness to such grand adventure – thrill-seeking and self-gratification through a glory that always resonates at a national level. Yet, as Mallory went on to say: “…what we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.”

As a First World War veteran who had seen the futility of brief existence at first hand: surely he was entitled to use his time as he saw fit?

Amazingly, as with Herbert Ponting’s filming of Scott’s Antarctic expedition, a cinematic record was made of this British expeditionary bravery by Captain John Noel who was inspired by Ponting’s achievements and who’s fascination with the Himalayas had dated back over a decade when he snuck into the country during his army service in India.

Colourised Captain John Noel
This was the world premiere of the new restoration of Noel’s incredible film at the Leicester Square Odeon, as this year’s Archive Gala at the BFI London Film Festival. It featured a specially commissioned score from Simon Fisher Turner who performed along with a bespoke ensemble, drafted in to cover everything from glacial electronica to Tibetan folk. Mr Fisher Turner performed a similar service for The Great White Silence – the go-to guy for glaciers (and gardens… or at least Derek Jarman's) and here again his music was perfectly matched to the scale of the sights on screen – awe-inspiring and frightening: a terrible beauty.

This was actually the third attempt to climb Everest the other two in 1921 and 1922 having provided much useful experience for this grand effort. Mallory had been on both as had Noel who helped secured investment for the project based on the filming of this attempt on the “Third Pole” as the Brits would have it or Chomolungma  - the Goddess Mother of the World - for the Tibetans.

Technological advances developed during the war had enabled Noel to make a number of modifications to his camera which was still based on the model used by Ponting. It was coated in rubber so he could use the view-finder without his skin getting frozen stuck, its battery power enabled stop-motion whilst it weighed less than twenty pounds – remarkably light for the time. It didn’t let him down and there are some breath-taking shots of the mountains and valleys as well as the people living on the roof of the world.

The film starts with the mountain gradually being revealed in stop-motion, red-tinted glory as clouds and shadows race away – it is magnificent and the quality of the restoration is quite stunning on the big screen.

There follows some grand imperialist scene setting which is reflected in the later tones of the commentary on Tibetan natives who, it is revealed, do not bathe amongst their other unsavoury traits… I noticed as the expedition continued how the Englishmen appeared to have stopped their toiletry habits too, must be the weather. These men were of their time and they had attitudes to match: the commentary was also playing to a home nation still nursing bruised nationalistic pride after the Empire’s struggles in the Great War.

A group of the expedition's sherpas
Noel’s camera spoke more eloquently of his generous artistic spirit and he establishes a level of sustained aesthetic cohesion that leaves you mildly snow-blinded. When you climb a mountain (even the tiny British ones in my case!) you’re constantly drawn to the summit, measuring it up against your own capacities and it’s no different here. Even when you know things will end in tragedy you follow the climbers’ upward gaze in hope.

Noel positioned his camera near this ledge in order to shoot the higher reaches
The other fascination is just how Noel is going to film the ascent… the closer he gets the bigger the mountain gets and the higher they climb the further away he is. He was not able to carry the camera much beyond 20,000 feet and so used a powerful telephoto lens to focus on the climbers as they pushed on through 24,000 to 26,000 feet and beyond. His camera was up to two miles away and yet you could still make out the climbers.

At one point a snow storm strikes and a small group get stranded in one of the higher camps, a party is sent to rescue them and Noel’s telescopic lens shows the moment when they are led to safety with a thousand foot drop awaiting if they lost footing.

Most poignantly of all, he shows Mallory and Irvine on their last ascent as they head up to their moment of destiny. We’ll probably never know if they made the summit but the evidence suggests perhaps not even though there’s still Mallory’s lost camera and the missing photo of his wife he promised to leave at the top… But, as Noel suggest at the end, living the lives they did, there may have been no better place to die than on this beautiful and impossible mountain – as near to God as man can get.

The film ends as it began in red with shadowy clouds racing to hide the peak of Chomolungma after Noel has pondered whether the goddess is protected by some mystical force… perhaps this is tacit recognition of the force of local belief. After all, science and rationality have been defeated by the mountain and mysteries have been added to those that will remain.

Fisher Turner’s band included Cosi Fanni Tutti (formerly of industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle) on cornet, along with Andrew Blick on trumpet,  James Brooks on brass, drummer Asaf Sirkis and cellist Peter Gregson. The Thapa family provided vocals and an authentic Nepalese touch. Powerful, imposing music that stays lodged in the brain along with Noel's images and the climbers' bravery.

There's an interview with SFT over at The Quietus where you can also hear his remarkable score. A very interesting fellow in his own right as his biography shows...

Noel’s daughter, Sandra, contributed greatly to the restoration and even the soundtrack with some recordings from 1924. She was present to add her own comments to the introduction and gave a moving account of her father’s determination in the face of being labelled a crank and an eccentric. She presented confidently and without any notes: a chip of the old block!

The Epic of Everest is now on general release in cinemas across the UK and a Blu-ray/DVD pack will be available in time for Christmas. But you can also stream it direct using the BFI’s new service – details here.

But, if you can, the film is best watched on as big a screen as possible and that still won’t be quite big enough, it is, indeed, epic. And, you will marvel!

“If we get within 200 yards or so of the top of Everest, we shall go… and if it’s a one-way ticket, so be it.” George Mallory

All images here are copyright BFI and are only featured to entice you into watching their film!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Live cinema… Harbour Drift (1929), with Stephen Horne, London Film Festival

Lissy Arna
Back before Blu-ray, VHS or Betamax had even been invented, people had an altogether more transitory relationship with cinema, you had to go out and watch it and once the release had finished, hope to see your favourites again at cinema clubs or, latterly, on TV… Can any of us really remember a time when cinema was mostly unavailable, long gone and an experience only relived in memory not on Memorex?

After a thoroughly absorbing 94 minutes watching Harbour Drift almost my first thought was “when’s the DVD coming out?”… now maybe that’s just me, but it’s a very modern instinct: storing any experience is a way of retaining it (and yourself) for longer. But doesn’t this take the edge off? Isn’t watching a film once every bit of an in-the-moment performance as the superb multi-instrumental accompaniment of Stephen Horne?

Hamburg provides the harbour
Thing is, currently there are no plans for a DVD* and so my relationship with Harbour Drift is entirely of that moment, sat in Row J Seat 15 of the BFI 1 cinema at the rain-sodden London Film Festival… As passing acquaintances go it was a rich and enjoyable one.

Of course, another aspect of the watcher relationship to cinema is that so many films were lost after their intended function was fulfilled. Harbour Drift was nearly one of them and was only recently restored to something like completeness – minus a few metres cut by the censors of “man kissing woman erotically…” as revealed by the lady from the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, whose print it was.

Fritz Genschow
Originally entitled Jenseits der Straße - Eine Tragödie des Alltags, for the English it became Harbour Drift: a Tragedy of Everyday Life and it is a wonderful mix of high-silent technique in terms of cinematography, direction and performance. It’s the kind of film that got lost in the stampede of stilted sound films in spite of looking much better and meaning far more.

Directed by Leo Mittler, it’s an everyday story of life on the edges showing the struggle to break free of poverty even at the expense of others in which love can happen but only thrive if luck intervenes at the right moment. It was a product of the Prometheus Film company and is not as overtly political as that association might suggest: it observes and lets the viewer draw their own conclusion.

Mitter does, however, wear his influences on his sleeve and in addition to the heralded Russian influences of cross-cuts and speedy montage; you could also see aspects of von Sternberg’s docklands and the desperate shadows of Murnau, Pabst and Lang…

Paul Rehkopf
The film starts with the ugly contrast between wealth and youth…an old letch ogles a pair of young legs catching furtive glimpses through a newspaper reporting tragic stories of passing interest: more transience… and a call to the viewer to not walk away from the message.

“Millions of newspaper copies every day. Hundreds of thousands of notices … every day. Hundreds of thousands fates … Who gives these any thought between coffee and cigars?” intones the first inter-title, and, as the corpulent old businessman considers his approach, we catch site of just one of these stories involving an old man…

The film takes us back to a knee-high view of a busy street as the local legs go about their business.  The camera moves along to alight on the source of this view, a beggar, hunched against the side of building - Paul Rehkopf. We’re also shown one particular pair of high heels marching back and forth, their owner is waiting for customers and the going is not good - Lissy Arna.

Suits you, sir...
Into their life falls a string of pearls, dropped by a busy, bright young thing en route to somewhere better. She snarls at the old beggar as he tries to return them and then he decides that he should keep them… Unbeknownst to him the girl has been watching things unfold, making her own calculations.

The beggar returns to his ramshackle harbour side barge and shows his booty to a young unemployed man he shares it with - Fritz Genschow. The two hide the precious find away for a rainy day.

Meanwhile the girl seeks out help from a local fence known as The Receiver - Siegfried Arno. He’s a nasty piece of work who holds court in a seedy bar near the docks, protected by a sailor - Friedrich Gnaß.

Lissy Arna and Siegfried Arno
These lives begin to intertwine, driven by fear, lust and greed – against all the odds love blooms but is it a luxury these poor people can ever afford?

The film is packed full of superb shots - both interior and locations sequences are so well composed and great credit must be due to cameraman Friedl Behn-Grund who also helps mash together the high-speed montages when the young man fights the sailor and towards the film’s climax.

Leo Mittler had theatre experience but I believe this was his first feature film. He does exceptionally well as do his leads. Siegfried Arno is calmly sadistic whilst Paul Rehkopf plays the old beggar like a man struggling to awake from the nightmare of slow decay. Fritz Genschow is perhaps the closest the film has to a hero and his glances at a girlish neighbour show how naïve he may be.

Lissy Arna makes the greatest journey though even though she may end up exactly where she began… she’s street smart but lets her heart go to her head – will she be lucky?

I was struck by a moment when the girl is first making her way to the docks in search of the beggar’s lair, she walks down a narrow street and scrawled on the side of a door is a swastika. This is the Weimar Germany in 1929 but there was a sure signal of the change the Republic’s economic disasters were to partly enable. They could not have believed it at the time but far worse was soon to come for those who clung to life on the harbour side…

Paul Rehkopf and Fritz Genschow
Stephen Horne has been a long-time supporter of this film and it showed in his passionate and inventive accompaniment. He played flute, accordion and piano – sometimes at the same time - whilst also eliciting some intriguing sounds from the latter through use of an ordinary piece of paper… you really have to see/hear that one!

Together with Harbour Drift he helped create one of the best silent film performances I’ve seen this year: he has a habit of doing that!

Harbour Drift was shown as part of the London Film Festivals Treasures strand. I don’t know when it’ll next show up but until then, deprived of the opportunity to collect it, I’ll just have to remember it!

*Watch this space though… and if any film is worth watching repeatedly this is one of them, especially if they use Mr Horne’s score.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The spirit of Slovakia… Jánošík (1921), Barbican with Vladimir Merta quintet

Jánošík is notable for being Slovakia’s first feature-length film and ensuring that the country became only the tenth to make one. Produced in Slovakia, the film was financed from America with various Slovak émigrés securing backing for this tale of their own Robin Hood who was rather more genuine than the British version…

Born in 1688, when Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary, Jánošík was a soldier who became an outlaw. Whilst it is highly likely that his generosity was somewhat exaggerated by nineteenth century writers looking for a folk symbol in the face of oppression,  he apparently never killed his victims and did indeed target the rich, sharing his loot with the peasantry.

Whatever the actuality, Jánošík’s legend endured, with one of groups in the anti-Nazi Slovak National Uprising bearing his name. He is an important part of the national identity of a country that had to wait centuries for independence. This film, no doubt, helped propagate the myth and such a major figure was a compelling choice for a Slovakian first.

Directed by Jaroslav Jerry Siakel,  who also co-wrote the screenplay (he had to, the final part only arrived after shooting…), Jánošík was based on a novel by Gustáv Maršall-Petrovský and a subsequent play by  Jiří Mahen.

Showing as part of the Czech Centre’s 17th Made in Prague film festival the film was believed lost until the 1970s and the restored version on screen is clearly missing some footage. This made for a slightly dis-jointed affair albeit one held together superbly by the musicians, of which more later.

Theodor Pištěk and Mária Fábryová
The film is built within a framing sequence in which a young couple of hiker’s are ragiled with the story of the legend. The couple are played by the same actors who play Juraj Jánošík and his lover Anička: Theodor Pištěk and Mária Fábryová.

This version of the tale ignores Jánošík’s military background and has him returning to his home village after two years at a seminary. He walks through some stunning poplar-tree lined tracks encountering a group of peasants working in seeming idyll. One of them is his old sweetheart Anička and after he leaves them he sits by the roadside and remembers their chaste flirtations in a sweet flashback involving a kissing dog…

But, what he hasn’t seen is the guard overseeing the peasant’s work: things have changed since he left…

Jozef Chylo looks on whilst Theodor Pištěk grabs Vladimír Šrámek

Worse is to come as Jánošík is greeted by his distraught father: his mother has just died and that’s not the half of it. The regional land-owner Count Šándor (Vladimír Šrámek – clearly relishing his role and with the film’s best hair), has been sweating the local assets a little too hard… Refusing to accept his wife’s death as an excuse for not working he has Jánošík’s father canned… the old man expires before his son can intervene and Jánošík begins his rebellion.

Knocking the evil count to the ground he is chased off by soldiers who peruse him into the woods. Jánošík is strong and cunning and is able to fight off the men earning him the instant respect of an on-looking outlaw, Ilčík (L. Hušek) who invites him to join his merry band.

Jánošík instils new rules which see the men only take from the rich, distribute to the poor and pledge themselves to avoid killing.

The story moves on apace and I could have done with a bit more daring-do but there’s a nice scene in which the gang arrive at a masked ball and relieve the gathered gentry of their jewellery in front of the anguished Count and his superior Baron Révay (Miloslav Schmidt). Almost certainly there was originally more.

The end arrives far too quickly as Jánošík is caught and trips on some dried peas thrown under his feet by a duplicitous old woman - true to the legend! His end is assured but his memory will live on.

Steals from the rich...
Whilst Jánošík may have been made in Slovakia but it shows the experience its makers had gained from the US and these outlaws from North-Western Slovakia could easily have been from further west a century or two later on.

The tale of Jánošík would be as familiar as Robin Hood to Slovakians and they would anticipate every key moment being ticked off which the film dutifully does. Theodor Pištěk was a big star at the time and brings a camp authority to the lead role with a touch of Fairbanks. Mária Fábryová was an amateur actress but does well in her dual roles.

The cinematography from Daniel Siakeľ and Oldřich Beneš is very polished, dealing with the sometimes frenetic action and locations that are used to stunning affect – if you’ve never thought of holidaying in Slovakia, Jánošík makes a compelling case and you’d also be within commuting distance of Vienna and Budapest!

In her introduction, Tereza Porybna, the Czech Centre Director, described the accompanying score as having been “comprovised” – composed and improvised - a new word that I may very well use again. It was certainly very spirited and sympathetic, played by a mix of Slovak and Czech musicians.

The quintet featured Vladimir Merta (vocals, guitar, lute, harmonica, pipe, fujara), Jana Lewitova (vocals, violin), Julo Fujak (vocals, piano, percussion), Samo Smetana (violin)  and Jan Kavan (vocals, violoncello). Mr Merta was especially impressive on the fujara which is a Slovakian fipple flute standing some almost as high as the players: the sound of the High Tatra mountains?

Vladimír Šrámek and nobility outraged...
Vladimir Merta is one of the pre-eminent folk musicians in Slovakia with a career dating back to the 1960’s; a number of his albums are available on eMusic as are some from his band-mates. There are a couple of snippets of the film featuring the quintet’s music on YouTube.

Their energetic gypsy phrasings bought this romp to life and they were particularly appreciated by my teenage son whose presence was traded for a trip to Forbidden Planet… never-the-less, he enjoyed himself and he loved the music!

The film is still available on DVD in Slovakia but the English version seems to be out of print. It’s worth seeking out for further evidence, if it were still needed, that cinema was truly international from the very beginnings.

Dedicated to Martin Škrtel – Liverpool FC’s first Slovakian player and a very fine centre back!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Animated… Tekkonkinkreet (2006) Plaid, Elysian Quartet and O Duo, Barbican Centre

No matter how good the soundtrack, there’s often something’s missing when you listen to a film score before seeing the film. Is it because the artist is holding back in some way or just that the two aspects are so indivisibly part of the experience that you diminish both through experiencing them in isolation?

I’ve got Plaid’s soundtrack to Tekkonkinkreet and long ago dismissed it as lacking the richer textures of their best work… but, after finally seeing the film accompanying the music I understand the latter a lot more. Is the strength of the music inversely proportionate to its link to the film? And, like the main characters in this film, are the two always stronger together - one yin to the other's yang?

Plaid (Andy Turner and Ed Handley) presented a live arrangement of their soundtrack with a soundscape broadened through the use of live strings and percussion. It was not only stronger musically than their studio version but showed the intelligence behind their composition which featured a series of bi-directional connections that varied in strength and tone throughout and which took turns in leading the emotional narrative or following its promptings.

The relationship of Plaid’s music to the film is a complex one and director Michael Arias had them in mind even before he put this version of the film together having been particularly taken with the genuine classic Not For Threes (1997). Surprisingly he says that “…it’s rare to begin work with composers until late in the filmmaking – music is so often an afterthought!” and yet he credits the duo with having a major influence on the story telling from early on, including the characterisation.

Kuro aka Black
The importance of the music is perhaps all the more understandable for a cartoon, especially one this tonally-intense, where the range of expression is more limited than with live actors (in most cases, surely...). An adaptation of the manga written by Taiyō Matsumoto, Tekkonkinkreet has that distinct strangeness of Studio Ghibli and other Japanese anime, mixing harsh realities with the unusual and the child-like. The characters inhabit a run-down section of a large city and live brutally amongst the violence of various criminal gangs – think Spirited Away meets The Sopranos, complete with ultra-violence and compulsory strip club scenes.

Strange town...
The story focuses on two orphans who have no one to depend on but each other. One is Shiro also known as White (voiced by Yu Aoi) who is a dreamer and not quite of this world yet strangely street smart and with an imaginative intensity. The other is Kuro or Black (the yin to Shiro’s yang… or is it the other way round?) (Kazunari Ninomiya) who is a martial arts expert.

They make a formidable team scaring off rival gangs from neighbouring areas but when the big gangsters – led by local old boy Suzuki (Min Tanaka) - move in, their reign, such as it is, is under threat. Kuro sees off three of Suzuki’s men including Kimura (Yusuke Iseya) who seems to have doubts about his calling…and a back story that builds.

Suzuki and an injured Kimura
But the real threat arrives in the odd-looking form of Snake (Masahiro Motoki) who is far nastier than the rest – in addiction to being a bit green – and who has three super assassins who have the ability to fly as well as maim… They are sent to attack the boys who just about manage to evade two and then destroy one..

Made as a cut Snake...
The battle reaches its critical point when Shiro is badly injured by one of the assassins and Kuro decides that the safest course of action is to harden up and leave his younger chum in protective custody whilst he deals with the protection of Treasure Town…

Separated, he takes on an altogether darker hue and the film starts to move in a more metaphysical manner. Do you have to become your environment or is “Love”, as one of the gangsters says, “all you need”? Kuru knows that by accessing his dark side, he can be stronger and overcome the opposition by force but what will be left of himself at the end? All leads up to a mystical ending which may well signify less than it means to…

These are age-old themes but all played out in a quirky fashion using stylistically extreme cartoons against stunning, other-worldly city-scapes… all art directed brilliantly by Shojiro Nishimi. It’s amazing how quickly you take these seemingly badly drawn boys so quickly to heart and that has as much to do with the music as the animation and voice characterisation.

Plaid’s music was given added muscle by their live musicians and their solo electronica accompanying an animation of Hunt Emerson’s Buster in Mouth City (had to get a silent film reference in somewhere...) was more typical of their sound - genuinely soulful electronica.

But they like to push their boundaries and their trademark elegantly-graduating Mobius lines gained extra texture especially from the Elysian Quartet and it was not just sound that made an impact but their visible musicality and skill. Ed and Andy work hard behind their monitors but you could see the performance craft more with the players who were front and centre with no tightrope and a dodgy pick-up for the Viola…

The Elysian Quartet are Emma Smith and Jennymay Logan on violins, Vincent Sipprell on viola and Laura Moody who was mournfully expressive on the cello.

The varied percussion of O Duo Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell also played its part as the two ran up and down from tom-toms to glockenspiels and bells.  Showing just how hard it is to physically replicate the sounds from Ed’s laptop on stage.

Tekkonkinkreet is available on DVD from all the old familiar places as is the stand-alone soundtrack CD.  it would be good to have this live version available too but perhaps it is best left as a thing of the moment: a performance with its singular audience connection rather than a souvenir with diminishing returns…

More about the adventures of the Elysian Quartet is on their website whilst the O Duo also have one over here. As for Plaid, they’re techno royalty and if you haven’t seen or heard of them, you can find out what you have been missing on their site.