Watch A Jazzed-Up Buster Keaton Film at the Frog
You get a movie and a music gig for the price of none at Blue Frog tonight, Wednesday, April 18, courtesy of the Alliance Française and French jazz band Ozma. The French cultural organisation is hosting a free “cine concert”at the club, where Ozma will perform their self-fashioned soundtrack to a screening of the 1923 Buster Keaton silent comedy film Three Ages. It won’t be the first time that a cine concert has been held in Mumbai, or the first time Blue Frog has served as the venue for one—the Midival Punditz played a somewhat ill-received electronica score to a showing of the 1973 Bruce Lee classic Enter The Dragon there in 2009. In fact, it won’t even be the first cine concert by Ozma, which features Adrien Dennefeld on guitar, David Florsch on saxophone, Edouard Séro-Guillaume on bass and Stéphane Scharlé on drums and percussion.
Three Ages is the third silent film for which the Strasbourg-based act has scored new music. The quartet, which last toured India exactly three years ago, performed its first cine concert in 2010 when a cinema in Paris asked them if they would be interested in writing and playing music for screenings of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1932 horror classic Vampyr. The result was a “great success”, said Scharlé, but when during their tour of Canada a cinematheque in Montreal suggested they try another film because they’d only recently shown Vampyr, they set about composing a score to accompany Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent propaganda pic Battleship Potemkin. The idea to take on Three Ages came from Scharlé’s friend, a cultural programmer in France. The band felt that the slapstick flick would appeal more to “a younger audience”, who could get a laugh out of the show if nothing else.
Three Ages is a film comprising three distinct segments, where the same story, in which two men compete for the affections of the same woman, plays out in three different time periods: the Stone Age, ancient Rome and the 1920s or what was at the point of the movie’s release, present time. For the stone age segment, expect to hear “a real archaic sound” achieved through the use of drums and flute; and for the Roman era, some “anachronistic disco and groovy music” that the band “thought would be funny”. However, it’s the last 1920s period that turned out to be most challenging for the group, who “put aside [their] own tastes” and the “influences of rock, pop and hip hop” that you hear on their albums to play “mainstream jazz” suitable of the decade. Ozma’s Mumbai gig will be the third stop on their on-going six-city trek of the country, and based on the reactions they received in Baroda and Ahmedabad, Scharlé believes that they have a hit on their hands. “In France, people were amused,” he said. “But here, people went crazy, maybe [because] it’s like a Bollywood film; a love story where the good guy wins the heart of the girl.”