We’re gonna rock him

Parallels Screens

The presence of music in film first brings to mind the figure of a composer writing a score to be combined with the other tracks accompanying images. Until now, FIDMarseille’s parallel screen dedicated to music and sound had steered clear of that obvious path. By giving prominence to sonic characteristics, voices, sound effects, sound editing, sound mixing, experiments or innovative surprises, the film selection has always prepared our ears to be wonderstruck.

This year, the festival makes a first exception to the rule with the composer of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Last Emperor, or Femme Fatale… Stephen Nomura Schible has filmed Ryūichi Sakamoto during a concert in New York : Async Live at the Park Avenue Armory (2018) is the second film they have made together after Coda (2017), and it is the director’s third film about a musician after his piece with Eric Clapton in 2004.

Two films with Mathieu Amalric forge tight links between music and cinema: C’est presqu’au bout du monde and L’Art et la matière. The first one is a striking moment before a concert, showing opera singer and conductor Barbara Hannigan preparing and warming up in her dressing room, in that intimate and ritualised time before she takes the plunge. The second one shows how Mathieu Amalric’s films are often caught in the middle: between who is being looked at and who is looking, between front stage and backstage, especially in Barbara (2017), a multifaceted biopic disclosing its own tricks. This documentary from the Cinéaste de notre temps collection, an obvious tribute to André S. Labarthe, uses the same shifting approach to film the actor, director, storyteller and artist, either unwinding or in action.

“Cut!”

Pat Collins’ Song of granite is the portrait of Joe Heaney, another biopic then, granted that an Irish singer, the most famous voice in a timeless musical heritage, might be played on screen by three different actors, not forgetting the man himself, present through archive footage. In this ode to the singer, in which anything might prompt a song, a few time leaps slip into this otherwise classic narrative, from birth to death. The essence of this tribute comes from the many voices involved, without any other device, over the fundamental grain of granite.

Play in the sunshine
We gonna love all our enemies
Till the gorilla falls off the wall
We’re gonna rock him
We’re gonna…
Play, play, play,
Ooo doh, awh, ooo, ooo, ooo

With those words from his song Play in the sunshine, Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, propels the second track in Sign O’ the Times (1987), which makes this film the second exception in our selection. The singer, musician, arranger and producer composed the score of all his films and offered unforgettable musical outbursts to cinema, from Batman to Ready Player One. A restored version of the film, recorded during the three European concerts of his tour and finalised at Paisley Park studios, will be screened outdoor at the Théâtre Silvain.

Sometimes two or three notes encapsulate a whole film, more than a few words or a series of shots ever could. When used abusively, music brings about a metamorphosis of feelings. In many cases, it is reduced to a few songs meant to trigger memories. Occasionally, music confronts its own heritage when faced to a certain filmed situation. When deployed freely, it wraps sequences under a timeless veil, defying contradictions and similarities. In rare cases, it seeps into the sound complexities by dragging the audible chaos towards a shared sensation. At times, it invents an amazing, unheard-of connection with images.

In Buenos Aires, disconnected from any scene in particular, directors Luciana Foglio and Luján Montes joyfully record and tame urban sounds to bend our ears towards ever bolder performances. El ruido son las casas (Noise is the houses), the house-version reveals the relevance and modernity of a multitude of musical experiments.

There is also a place for silence in this selection, as offered by two solitary old men, two players in their own ways – brothers, twins maybe? Famous characters or distant successors of Richard Wagner or, of Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth, filmed by Pablo Sigg in Lamaland (Teil 1), in Paraguay.

The same attention to the making of sounds is to be found in the work of two directors who are no strangers to this music-filled parallel screen. Thomas Carillon, working with Avreeyal Ra for the second time, tackles unceremoniously the studio sessions of a small jazz band in Here and now. In her third film to be screened in Marseille, OM, Yasmin Davis creates an optical and sonic illusion, a gripping manipulation. In Les Indes Galantes, Clément Cogitore transcends in one brief film the sole historical and musical dimension of a Jean- Philippe Rameau. There is also an echo of Diana as a Riot Grrrl in the work of Christophe Bisson, a regular of the festival.

As an evocation of Steve Reich’s out of sync repetitions in It’s Gonna Rain in 1965, a fortuitous discrepancy at the root of so many newly created forms, this parallel screen is a gesture towards Paul Otchakovski-Laurens, this precious listener, meticulous partner to all proposals, either musical or not, sometimes even devoid of any literature.

We’re gonna rock him…