Friday, April 07, 2006

Delphine Friendly

Jimi Tenor performs Mister Freedom, Ether Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, Friday March 24 2006.

The first of a two-leg finale to the Ether Festival is a score draw which sees Finnish techno-jazz maverick Jimi Tenor and a hand-picked 'slamming band' of ten musicians perform a live soundtrack to William Klein's rarely-seen pop-art superhero spoof Mr Freedom (1968). Needless to say this is something that doesn't come around very often.

There will, of course, be some sceptics who might say that's with good reason, and indeed as Dead Kenny takes his front row seat in the plush QEH he reflects that providing a live soundtrack to a 'talking' picture is a strange prospect that might not work. Things are fine during the dramatic opening score, but there are occasions when the various flutes and horns of the 'big band sound' seem to be doing battle with the dialogue, and initially the audience is torn between observing the live performers or the action on the big screen.

Things settle down as the (admittedly rather haphazard) plotting and eye-popping visuals of the film pulls you in to what is an uncannily prescient satire on American Imperialism, pitched somewhere between a live-action version of Team America:World Police and Roger Vadim's Barbarella. And of course all the 60's counter-culture staples are fixed in: crazy sideburns (bonjour, Freddie Fric!); a surreal and druggy orgy; supporting performances from Donald Pleasance and Serge Gainsbourg plus a chic French actress (in this case, Delphine Seyrig as a delectable double-agent) unencumbered by underwear. Subtle and even, it ain't, but it is frequently funny and has a definite relevance to what is going on in the world at the moment. Hopefully, this kind of event will help restore the film's profile and secure a decent DVD release.


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