Cambridge Days

Battleship Potemkin Remixed

I steeled myself for my upcoming capitalist indoctrination (B-school starts next week) by watching ‘Battleship Potemkin’ on Sunday. The movie, in fine socialist form, was free for the masses – it played in a drizzly Trafalgar Square, and featured a thumpin’ new soundtrack composed and performed live by the Pet Shop Boys.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t so much a big spectacle, as a good show. I’d expected a double-dose of high camp; that the synthetic techno bombast of Mssrs. Tenant and Lowe would serve only to make Potemkin seem anachronistic and crude by comparison, probably send the whole thing up as a terribly naive work – technologically, artistically, politically, historically, whatever.

Instead, it was engaging. The music was surprisingly complementary, at times almost natural, and if anything, made the film seem more contemporary, not less. Given, I actually like the music of the Pet Shop Boys (hence my trek from Cambridge to London), so my opinion may be suspect to some, but I call it a success, and an artistic one at that.

No, it wasn’t perfect: some passages delved too long and deep in the club sound (IMO, the words “Da!” and “Nyet” do not a natural bass line make), some slower strains went on just a bit (imagine Phillip Glass pumped full of Red Bull). But pacing, I suppose, is one thing the revisionist soundtrack composer can’t completely control, and one of the more obvious aspects where early cinema shows its age.

Standing in the rain surrounded by umbrellas wasn’t the best screening venue, but it was memorable. The best seats in the house, alas, were on a red double-decker bus snarled in Trafalgar’s traffic – we watched passengers wind their way to the top deck, sitting high and dry, until a traffic cop finally cleared ’em out.

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