thu 18/08/2022

The Unfilmables, Brighton Festival review - lost classics get soundtracks they deserve | reviews, news & interviews

The Unfilmables, Brighton Festival review - lost classics get soundtracks they deserve

The Unfilmables, Brighton Festival review - lost classics get soundtracks they deserve

Audio-visual avant-garde blow-out at the Duke of York's Picturehouse

Wrangler take faceless electronica to its logical conclusion

The main room of the Duke of York’s is humming.

Brighton’s cinema-goers and music-lovers have turned out in their droves to catch Wrangler (an electronic outfit made up of Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder, Tuung’s Phil Winter, and producer Benge) and art-pop-singer-cum-soundtrack-composer Mica Levi “subvert boring live soundtracks” in their attempts to recreate two "lost films": The Tourist and The Colour of Chips.

Colm McAuliffe, Creative Producer of The Unfilmables project, describes The Tourist as “depraved, sexy, and debauched”. Set in an underground alien sex cult, the script was, at one point in the Eighties, attached to Francis Ford Coppola, but was never made due to personality clashes and creative differences. With the film recently made by Tash Tung and Daniel Conway, Wrangler have been brought on board to provide a live soundtrack as overwhelming and surreal as the visuals.

Musically, The Tourist is a throbbing, synthetic mash of oppressive techno and Blade Runner-style soundscapes. Coupled with distorted film loops, vaginal imagery, and (perhaps overused) mirror effects incessantly pulsing on the screen, it all but transforms the cosy cinema into the seedy and sweaty nightclub on the screen. The plot itself is played out in tiny green letters that periodically scroll along the screen; meanwhile, fragments of garbled vocals float amongst the music, with only the odd “she deftly snaps his wrist” or “they don’t know what they want” making itself heard. Wrangler have undoubtedly achieved their aim of creating “a series of visual and alien cyphers” Whether these cyphers can be fully appreciated under the sheer mass of visual and aural noise present, however, is less certain; it was, as one member of the audience claimed in the subsequent interval, “an assault”.

Having finished their cake, wine, snacks and cigarettes, the audience return to the auditorium for Mica Levi’s attempt to sonically transplant Sergei Parajanov’s The Colour of Pomegranates from Armenia to Blackpool. Imagined and realised on screen by Francesca Levi, The Colour of Chips captures Blackpool through the eyes of a psychic, with a set of oddly touching motifs at its core: an abandoned and untouched pint-glass, chips spilled over pictures of page three models, and a small hand moving back and forth over a tarot deck.

Mica Levi immerses the audience in waves of synths and subtly shifting discord. Gentler than the manic club music of The Tourist, the soundtrack feels imbued with regret and nostalgia. The psychic narrator occasionally chirps up with ominous warnings and profound observations, which are looped and layered as the film progresses to menacing effect. The Colour of Chips ends quite with two limp, entwined balloons falling against the glamour of the Blackpool illuminations, perfectly summarising the quirky beauty of the film.

The Unfilmables is an ambitious and disorientating attempt to turn forgotten ideas into cinematic wonders. While the films’ reliance on repetition and visual effects can feel slightly oppressive at times, the eerie music provided by Wrangler and Mica Levi give these lost classics the soundtracks they deserve.

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