diamond geezer

 Monday, September 13, 2004

The Battleship Potemkin (Pet Shop Boys, Trafalgar Square)

There are easier ways to watch a film. You could go to the cinema, or you could stay in and watch one on DVD or on telly. But no, last night I went and stood in the middle of Trafalgar Square in the rain and watched a silent movie projected onto a giant flapping sheet. I was a bit worried to begin with. The Square was absolutely packed, the bells of St Martins were ringing out a never-ending peal and various umbrellas were blocking my view of the screen. But thankfully the rain eased, the bells stopped and I managed to find a line of sight not blocked by a six foot something smoker talking into a mobile phone.

Our evening's performance was preceded by what can best be described as a non-party political broadcast on behalf of revolution, recapping some of the protests seen in Trafalgar Square throughout its history. And then the Pet Shop Boys took to the stage, accompanied by the 26 piece Dresdner Sinfoniker. At least I think they did - I couldn't see because there were fifty heads and a fountain in the way. Neil and Chris had composed a new score to this seminal 1925 black and white film by Soviet producer Sergei Eisenstein. Brief summary: Sailors revolt over maggoty meat; Town rises up in support; Pram tumbles down steps; Boat faces destruction in one-sided sea battle.

I wasn't convinced by the score in the opening scenes, it felt artificial and anachronistic. Very Pet Shop Boys. But I was more impressed as the film continued, with driving military beats, soaring emotion and a few vocal interludes. Before long I forgot who the composers were and just got on with enjoying the complete work. That Odessa Steps scene is rightly legendary, and all the more impressive for being three quarters of a century old. And the Boys have come up with an accomplished score which, at 75 minutes long, happens to be exactly the right length to fit on a soundtrack CD. Better on the (very) big screen though, I suspect.

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