The re-scoring of a classic or cult film can be an exciting thing. There have been some truly amazing re-scorings over the last couple years, such as Metavari’s re-scoring of Fritz Lang’s masterpiece Metropolis, the Kwaidan re-score featuring Troller, Michael C Sharp, Antoni Maiovvi, Timothy Fife, and Missions(at the 2017 SXSW), and even Zombi’s Steve Moore re-scoring Richard Donner’s Superman(not sure if this actually happened, but there’s a hell of a trailer out there if you can find it.) Point is, hearing new sonic worlds laid out over a classic bit of celluloid can be an overwhelming thing. In a way, it reinvigorates art you thought you knew and gives it a creative angle you would have never thought of before.
Some folks that are leading the way with these inventive re-scores is the Austin Film Society and Holodeck Records. These two came together, along with SXSW to bring us this year’s must-see event at SXSW 2019. Lesley Keen’s 1990 animated film RA: Path of the Sun God will be re-scored by Holodeck Records’ artist Curved Light, Majeure(Zombi’s A.E. Paterra), and True Creature, the solo synth project of Canadian composer Andrea Cowan-Cosmatos. This will be happening on March 13th from 5:30pm to 6:45pm at the AFS Cinema.
I talked with Gabriel Chicoine and Jazmyne Moreno of the Austin Film Society, as well as Holodeck Records’ Adam Jones about the upcoming show, the artists involved, and what goes into putting a re-scoring together.
J. Hubner: I have to be honest, before reading up on RA: Path of the Sun God I was unaware of its existence. I ended up watching it online and I was pretty blown away. Where did the idea come to re-score this particular animated film?
Gabriel Chicoine: I would be surprised if you had heard of the film. Aside from a private VHS release, a 1990 broadcast on Channel 4, and 2 or 3 festival screenings, RA: PATH OF THE SUN GOD was nearly lost to the ages. Our event is almost like a world re-premiere. All credit for the discovery goes to our programmer and event producer, Jazmyne Moreno, who has a vast, encyclopedic knowledge of obscure titles. She brought it to me knowing that I had organized past re-scores for the Austin Film Society (AFS), like KWAIDAN in 2016. Coincidentally, I had already been scouting films with Holodeck for another live score at SXSW. We immediately recognized that this three-chapter, visually hypnotic animation was the perfect vehicle for a live score.
J. Hubner? So Jazmyne, you brought RA into the light?
Jazmyne Moreno: After initially contacting Gabe about doing a re-score for another title, I discovered we had not only run out of time to get the film, but it would be a format unsuitable for the venue. This left me with one night to determine a title. I racked my brain, went through all of my lists: favorite films, animation, etcetera, years and years of film watching, until I came across Lesley’s name next to her film ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE. I recalled she had made RA, which I loved, and went to work, contacting her that night, and presenting the film to Holodeck the next day. Immediately, everyone agreed: we had found the film. It was perfect really.
J. Hubner: Tell me a little about the artists that are taking part in this Holodeck Records/SXSW/Austin Film Society-curated event. What was the process like in choosing who would be a part of this? Or was it more of a situation where the artists came to you?
Adam Jones: The line-up was a combination of who was available and which artists felt right for the project. Andrea (Vancouver), aka True Creature and Tony (Pittsburgh), aka Majeure have been on my short list of re-score artists for a while, and the main barrier has been geography until now. I’m thrilled that we could get them down to Austin this year! Peter, aka Curved Light, is one of Austin’s most inspiring synth composers and is always one of my top choices for re-scores. I love all three of these artists, and they all just so happen to have new Holodeck releases in the works. Just like everything else with this event, there seems to be some cosmic serendipity at work.
J. Hubner: The score for Lesley Keen’s 1990 original version is pretty out there as it is. Dark and foreboding, with lots of space-y synths. Sort of a cross between Bobby Beausoleil and JD Emmanuel.
What can we expect from Curved Light, True Creature, and Majeure?
Adam Jones: All three artists have expressed how much they like the original soundtrack and how challenging it has been to live up to that standard. I feel like the re-score will still feel natural to each artists’ individual styles, but yea dark and foreboding just like the film. The story line is pretty abstract, so I am expecting some deep dives into tone design.
J. Hubner: Is there a possibility this performance will be recorded for a future release?
Gabriel Chicoine: This event came together pretty quickly, so we’re still in the process of formulating a release plan. One way or another, we’re going to do our best to make sure people who can’t make it to the SXSW premiere get a chance to experience it, whether live or via a physical or digital release.
Adam Jones: We have high hopes for the future of this project, but we are focused on SXSW first. Would definitely love to do everything you are thinking about and more.
J. Hubner: How many years has Holodeck and Austin Film Society been taking part in these re-scorings? What’s the history behind this partnership?
Gabriel Chicoine: This collaboration goes back to 2016, when we partnered with another local film group, Hyperreal Film Club, to present Masaki Kobayashi’s eerie art house horror film, KWAIDAN. Since then, we’ve had a couple false starts with other re-scores. It’s harder than you might realize to find the perfect conditions for a re-score – that is, films that will actually benefit from new music, that aren’t super dialogue-heavy, that have strong visual components, etc. And then you need to get the blessing from the filmmaker/distributor, and hope they don’t request a $10,000 screening fee (which actually happened to us before). We have been waiting on another title for two years now that will be perfect for a re-score, but it’s been unavailable due to a restoration project. It’s finally slated to be re-released in the fall, so expect to see another obscure animation that will totally blow your mind later this year.
J. Hubner: Are there any bucket list films you’d like to see get the re-scoring treatment?
Gabriel Chicoine: There are dozens, but for some reason the first thing popping into my head is BOXER’S OMEN, or really any of those Shaw Bros fantasy horror films. The visuals are so intense and the plots are so unintelligible, I think a re-score would just be super fun. There’s always those big studio films like ALIEN that would be really cool to experience with a blazing synth score instead of the more traditional arrangments, but unfortunately you’ll never get the permission to do it.
Jazmyne Moreno: Without a doubt, ALICE IN WONDERLAND (1966). It takes removes all the wonder, the Disney-fication, and turns it into a moody, black & white head-trip. The dialogue, taken from the book, would make for some great samples. Also coming to mind, TAMALA 2010, with its vulgar Hello Kitty meets Astro Boy riff on Thomas Pynchon, it’s just fun.
Adam Jones: My favorite movies are visual heavy fantasy/sci-fi with little to no dialogue. The first Arnie Conan film and Quest for Fire would be my top choices.
J. Hubner: So what are the details for the re-score? When and where?
Gabriel Chicoine: This is an official SXSW showcase at the AFS Cinema on March 13th at 5:30 PM. Although festival credential-holders will get primary access, we anticipate that there will be general public tickets available at the door, so don’t worry if you don’t have a badge or wristband. The filmmaker, Lesley Keen, is flying out from Ireland to join us. It’s going to be a really special evening.
SXSW officially starts today. If you’re going, make sure to get to the AFS Cinema on March 13th at 5:30pm for what will surely be a festival highlight. Austin Film Society and Holodeck Records have curated yet another re-scoring that will blow minds. With Curved Light, True Creature, and Majeure, how could it not?