Review – Geoff Jenke
The Adelaide French Festival welcomed some of the best artists from France to celebrate the 2019 season. The program boasted an eclectic selection of music, theatre, dance, wine, art, fashion, something for everyone.
It also had the Adelaide exclusive showing of Georges Melies films, accompanied by live music. Not sure who Georges Melies is? He was a French illusionist and film director who was a pioneer of special effects at the turn of the twentieth century. Astounding, joyous and often surreal, Méliès’ short films revolutionised the early days of cinema through his whimsical approach and development of new techniques.
The show follows a sold-out premier performance at the 2018 Adelaide French Festival and the 2019 show followed this success with a waiting list at the door.
The evening was divided into 3 sets of films and musicians. The first was the classic movie A Trip To The Moon, made in 1902 and is regarded as the first Science fiction movie ever made. It follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon’s surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return to Earth with a captive Selenite. This copy of the film had been colourised, which I had never seen.
Providing the soundtrack were 3 musicians (Sax/accordion, drums and guitar) who supplied a soundtrack that closely followed the film. The use of sax was excellent and the accordion used during the capture/escape scenes was used to great effect. Following the Moon movie was a short piece called The Conjurer made in 1899. For its day, the film is a wonderful display of magic and special effects.
Set two featured the ever-changing Zeitgeist Orchestra with Cello, Drums and piano. The films included Eclipse and Wander Stars, continuing Melies interest in things about space and also continued his interest in removing people heads (yes, that is correct) in movies Man with Rubber Head and A Crazy Composer. The musicians were for flexible this time, actually winging it with their jazz orientate sounds. A Crazy Composer contained a lot of silent movie piano playing and the pianist on stage filled the gaps nicely.
Set three music was a bit “in-between” the free form of the Orchestra and structured sounds of set one. The Julian Ferraretto Quartet consisted of a violinist, cello, piano and acoustic guitar. More magic from Melies with Living Playing Cards, Magic Fish and the Rajah Dream. As the playing cards came to life during the movie Living Playing Cards, the guitarist played God Save the Queen (the royal version, not the Sex Pistols) when the queen card came to life.
A very entertaining evening and it was good to see quite a few children attending. The musicians presented wonderful original compositions that celebrate the spectacular nature of Melies work.
Sit your children down and watch A Trip to the Moon with them, followed by Living Playing Cards, all available on Youtube. It will certainly lead to watching many more of Georges Melies 193 films.