Review: Louis- The Movie – Silent film with live musical accompaniment

Louis – A silent film with live music accompaniment
(Barbican, Sunday November 13th. Afternoon screening. Part of LJF11. Review by Kai Hoffman)

As part of the 2011 London Jazz Festival this past weekend at the Barbican, I was thrilled to see ‘Louis,’ a brand-new silent film with live accompaniment, with a score written by Wynton Marsalis and Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

The film itself is intricate, well-thought-out and very much in the silent film tradition with obvious harking back to Charlie Chaplin’s inventive early twentieth-century comedy. The choreography in the film is absolutely brilliant, recalling Bob Fosse, Mark Morris, like watching the ocean: so much going on, everywhere you look- it was quite mesmerizing. Director Dan Pritzker’s wide ranging, fast-moving camera angles drew the audience straight into the wild, debauched world of uptown New Orleans’ brothels, street scenes and nightlife, and gave a rather vivid insight into the hardships and experiences that Louis Armstrong endured as a child.

Wynton Marsalis’ score is intricately and expertly woven-in with the action of the film, and covers a vast array of styles; touching on a huge variety of different musical flavours from the New Orleans of the
early 20th century to the present day.

With references ranging from grand old Opry to charleston to marching street band music, incredibly complex instrumental jazz passages & Zydeco/Creole rhythms, Marsalis’ score was spectacularly performed by an all-star band, under the direction of trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, with superstars including saxophonist Wes Anderson, pianist Cyrus Chestnut and drummer Paul Clarvis (replacing Herlin Riley). The tremendously varied score, performed by some of the world’s finest jazz musicians, in combination with the wildly inventive silent film, made for an incredible live performance experience!


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