I’ve written before of those points where my interests in silents and modern jazz/avant garde music match. One particular hero is the American guitarist Gary Lucas, whose extraordinary accompaniment to a scene from Der Golem has already appeared on The Bioscope.
I’ve just found on his website another silent film with his accompaniment. He had a touring show, Sounds of the Surreal, which presents his live accompaniment to Rene Clair’s Entr’acte (1924), Fernand Leger’s Ballet Mecanique (1924), and Ladislaw Starewicz’s The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912), which available as a QuickTime file on his site.
The Cameraman’s Revenge, from http://www.garylucas.com
Ladislaw Starewicz (1882-1965) is one of cinema’s true originals. His passion was entomology. He was taken on by the Russian company Khanzhonkov as a designer, and turned to directing model animation in 1912. His extraordinary idea was to build on his hobby by animating insects with stop-motion photography, in parodies of human activity. The Cameraman’s Revenge (or Mest’ kinematografičeskogo operatora) is his best-known film from this period, where a bettle and a grasshopper both pursue a dragonfly dancer, and the envious grasshopper captures evidence of a romantic tryst between the pair on his motion picture camera. It is one of the damnednest things you ever saw.
He made several other such stop-motion and animated films, including The Ant and the Grasshopper, Insects’ Aviation Week and Voyage to the Moon. In the 1920 Starewicz moved to France, where he won increased fame for animated films such as La voix du rossignol (1923), Amour noir et amour blanc (1928) and the feature-length Le roman de Renard (1928-39), all produced with dogged independence.
To be honest, the Gary Lucas score, with National steel guitar, doesn’t connect much with the action, and the version online is incomplete, missing the conclusion where the grasshopper’s film is shown. Nevertheless, it’s worth checking out just for being so odd, and selections of Starewicz’s films happily are available on DVD.