– by Alice McShane
The National Film and Sound Archive, Tuesday March 19th 2013
The product of a collaboration between the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) and the You Are Here festival, Hit Him In The Comic Cuts made its much anticipated debut on Tuesday March 19th in the beautiful NFSA courtyard. Home to ARC outdoor cinema, those in-the-know arrived early to claim the coveted deckchairs up front where, under the screen lay a new addition: a stage, heralding the evening’s promised convergence of cinema and live performance.
Taking its cues from the silent film era, wherein screenings would, by necessity, be accompanied by live performance, Hit Him In The Comic Cuts sought to breathe new life into a lost entertainment form. Given access to NFSA footage, three local artists were invited to respond to the footage, with the resulting distinct interpretations reminding us of cinema’s infinite scope.
Composer Shoeb Ahmad stripped bare For the Term of His Natural Life, transforming the film into a pulsating kaleidoscope, to match the haunting scored improvisation of Ahmad and the Silver Spine Arkestra. This surreal dreamscape took the place of film’s narrative imagery evoking a far more visceral response: overwhelming sensations of isolation, fear and brutality.
Circus performer Pablo Latona intercut footage from the FT Entertainers Variety Show with his own unique blend of live pantomime, vaudeville, magic and comedy to take us through time to the 1930’s (fictitious) Arc House Variety Hall. Cheesy, but wonderful, Latona’s quirky comedic sensibilities endeared him to us, and it was impossible not to suspend disbelief, if only for the moment, and heckle, cheer, boo and laugh as if I were watching the performances live.
Rounding out the evening, Luke McGrath and The Shine Tarts abridged and performed a live score to the 1922 silent feature Sunshine Sally, which also happened to inspire the title Hit Him In The Comic Cuts; a quote from the film. Due to the shocking good looks of The Shine Tarts, I can’t recall most of what happened in the film, but I know it was an incredible twenty minutes of great, rocking music that revitalised the silent feature.
If the recent explosion of outdoor cinema venues indicates one thing, let it be this; people love going to outdoor cinema. A night under the stars with cinema can only be bettered by one thing; added live performance. Festivals across Australia take note! This is definitely an idea worth “paying homage” (stealing) to. For now, I just hope it’s back for You Are Here 2014.
Alice currently works in regional television, occasionally writes television commercials but mostly writes film essays. Obviously she should be followed on twitter @aliceclaire, and at http://filmalice.wordpress.com/