Classic silent films … and a kickin’ rock concert

While planning an overview of silent film and modern music accompaniment for you, I came across Vox Lumiere, a concept so bizarre that it more than merited a post of its own.

Vox Lumiere is a music theatre company which specialises in presenting a combination of silent film and rock opera. While a silent classic plays in the background – so far their repertoire features Metropolis, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Peter Pan, The Phantom of the Opera and a ‘greatest hits’ package’ – singers and dancers enact the drama and a five-piece rock band does what five-piece rock bands tend to do. Musically, going by their promo video above, it’s not quite my taste, but clearly some people like the concept, to judge from their press reviews, and they’ve come up with something novel which in its way articulates the modern appeal that the iconography and emotion of silents can engender.

Vox Lumiere Metropolis

Vox Lumiere’s interpretation of Metropolis, from http://www.voxlumiere.com

The Vox Lumiere website provides you with video clips, sound clips, photographs, information about the company, a calendar of events (catch them next in Shreveport, Louisiana in November), and the chance to buy T-shirts and baseball caps. So that’s everything covered really.

As said, it’s not going to be everyone’s taste, and the juxtaposition of the kind of low rent rock music you only get in rock operas with silent movies (which don’t necessarily need this sort of help to gets their effects across) is peculiar, if not alarming. But it wins points for originality, enthusiasm, and for demonstrating that silents remain an inspiration – and an inherently theatrical medium.

(The title of the post is taken from a line in their promo video, by the way)

4 responses

  1. ‘That it should come to this!’

    Actually, I thought the music wasn’t too bad and the performers seem to be capable, but the late 80s pop-rock choreography is so clichéd – without, it seems, being ‘ironically retro’ – it’s squirm-making.

    But perhaps it will introduce a new audience to the silents, and some of those people will then want to watch the films ‘properly’.

    Stephen

  2. I must admit that I came to scoff and then halfway through writing the post decided to change tack, because I actually admired what they were trying to do. All power to them for doing something bold and different. But the music I find grim.

  3. Agree. So much depends on the *kind* of rock music and the kind of related live performance. 2 examples. I saw ‘Metropolis’ some years ago with a rock score done in 1984 by Giorgio Moroder. I thought it was great and that it worked really well with the film. (Others may disagree). On the other hand, at one of the silent-film events that Christian Belaygue put on at the Avignon festival in the ’80s, one of the films — I think it was ‘The Mysterious X’ (Christensen, 1913), or anyway something just as outstanding — was accompanied by an experimental rock group. Their music occasionally worked well with the images, but mainly didn’t. In addition, they felt it was their prerogative to ‘interact’ with the film, so members of the group intermittently wagged a finger at characters on the screen, spoke to them, etc. Many of us thought this was not showing respect to the film, and were pretty outraged (Paolo Cherchi-Usai was there and I seem to remember he felt the same): the experience felt rather like seeing an acted version of those mocking commentaries which were put on silent films by Robert Youngston in the 1950s. I can imagine, however, that some styles of live action could be seen as a ‘tribute’ rather than seeming to ‘mock’ the film. Maybe Vox Lumiere falls into that category; I don’t know: I can’t see the clip as it says the video’s no longer available on UTube.

  4. The YouTube clip’s still playing OK, and you can also find it and others on the Vox Lumiere site.

    I guess there’s going to be no end to the arguments around appropriate accompaniment for silent films, but I’m less against the film accompanying the music rather than the music always having to accompany the film as I once was. If something imaginative comes out of it, the precedence doesn’t matter. Vox Lumiere are aiming to create a novel kind of theatre. They’re certainly not mocking the films. It’s just something I’d rather speculate upon rather than have to experience myself…

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