There's the circus made of wire figures. There's the barker, the strongman, the dancer, the knife thrower with the wayward aim. Then the shop window dummies and their difficult love. Max Ernst hamming it up like a fancy dress party Dracula. Marcel Duchamp's hypnotic discs. And then our hero, Joe, the psychiatrist, the dreamcatcher, who turns blue and goes off chasing after rope up ladders.
Hans Richter's 1947 film "Dreams That Money Can Buy" is a surrealist classic. As chaotic and confounding as you would expect when the story strands are woven by Man Ray, Fernand Leger, Alexander Calder and the aforementioned Duchamp. Originally soundtracked by John Cage, Paul Bowles and others it is now the latest in a series of thrilling live movie events by Marek Pytel's Reality Films. Previously Pere Ubu have tackled It Came From Outer Space and Acid Mothers Temple have eclipsed the manga-nasty Legend of the Overfiend. Forthcoming is a Billy Childish take on the Patrick McGoohan gritty Brit noir Hell Drivers. New soundtracks to old movies performed live in front of the screen.
There could be few better suited to take on Richter's Dreams than London's The Real Tuesday Weld. The alias of Stephen Coates, solo artist turned band leader, who has mesmerized listeners with bedsit tales of romance and reverie, dreams and despair since the Valentine EP of 2001. Classically British but with a continental twist. Imagine Gainsbourg at the end of Blackpool pier. Noel Coward in a Chanel dress.
Their antique beats, and 78 and shellac cut and paste lo-fi big band sound, have previously been transformed into award winning cartoons by their collaboration with cult animator Alex Budovsky. (UK readers will be aware of at least one of their songs because of its use on a Budovsky created TV advert for Lucozade). And having already created an imaginary soundtrack for a real novel, the Reality Films project provided the opportunity to complement another artist's vision across the decades.
At Saturday's premiere at the National Film Theatre, London the band played on either side of the big screen. A narrator covered the gaps where the original dialogue was removed to make way for the new soundtrack and the Real Tuesday Weld melded their exquisite melodies with Richter's striking visuals.
It worked so well that if anything it improved the film as a whole. Bringing a cohesion to Richter's disparate, though addictive narrative. And bringing the darkest comedic moments to the fore. And that is some compliment. Plans are being made to restage this event and perhaps even to have the Real Tuesday Weld soundtrack available as an option on a remastered DVD release of the film. Look out for it. It's a dream worth buying into.
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
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