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Le Révélateur Le Révélateur
Over 2 nights the Brisbane Powerhouse presented the live film music of Philip Brophy, the second night featuring a score for Philippe Garrel’s controversial silent film Le Révélateur (1968). Brophy’s background includes work as film director, sound designer, lecturer, film programmer and curator. He is probably best known for his visceral Cronenberg styled feature Body Melt (1993). The first night’s focus on Japanese animation, with vibrant colour and slick sound design attests to the stark contrasts in Brophy’s encompassing versatility. His multi-lateral approach to media is perhaps summed up in his statement, “I become [the media] in order to unbecome myself.”

The soundtrack grants us unimpeded access to the emotional interiority of film and thus easily assumes semantic dominance, hence the challenges confronting the score composer. In Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, Brophy commendably takes up the challenge of providing a score that goes beyond Brian Eno-esque clichés and the ever prevalent insert-Arvo-Pärt-here.

The rarely screened Le Révélateur is a hauntingly apocalyptic film composed in stark black and white contrasts of a man, woman and neglected child in psychological crisis. Reputedly the entire cast and crew took LSD before shooting; the eyes of the woman as she descends the staircase holding the rail with both hands makes this apparent. The characters, as though trapped in a box, avoid making any connection; like silent puppets they stare out at a bleak world. The now less tangible political context of the film was its birth in Garrel’s traumatic internalisation of the Paris riots of May ‘68, the resulting deflated ambitions and unrealised dreams and the consequent police crackdown and the dispersal of militants, propelling Garrel to Munich where he began filming.

In Brophy’s soundtrack the selection of music is historically decontextualised from the film’s 1968 origins; beginning with the violent and sinister eroticism of the Velvet Underground, it forward tracks through 70s German Krautrock to David Bowie and Joy Division. The harsh discordant guitar chords provided live by Dave Brown are thematically linked to Garrel’s 10 year romance with Nico (of the Velvet Underground). The savagery of menacing, pulsing, jagged edged sounds merges seamlessly with the stripped back and raw cinematic imagery. The cross-fading oscillation between over-exposed whites and an impenetrable darkness is recomposed in the auditory realm via the contrast of shrill explosions of electric guitar with the brooding darkness of the bass. A parallel dialogue between the gruesome aversions of the parents and the hopeful playfulness of the child is suggested in guitar versus keyboard. The protagonists’ persistent closeness to the ground—on their knees or hiding in the grass—is emphasised by scraping, rumbling and granular sound textures. In an additional original move, a female voice is added to the soundtrack coinciding with scenes where the woman turns to face the camera.

Brophy’s soundtrack emulates the stylistic structure of the film; the circular tracking shots of the camera correspond with the child tramping in circles, which correlate well with the repetition and looping of Krautrock. In one scene the child becomes a voyeur, watching his parents violently confront each other on a miniature theatre stage; the silence of the film is now embellished by wailing, distorted guitar. In the latter half of the film the child resolves his anguish, this is marked not only by his escape from the forest, but also his swapping the ever present doll for a can of fly spray. In Brophy’s soundtrack this development is signposted by the introduction of a cover version of David Bowie’s Heroes—perhaps forever embedded in the cinematic psyche with flight since its use in Christiane F as the ‘sound’ junkies flee from the police through the corridors of an emptied shopping mall. We can only wonder how Philippe Garrel would respond, but I sense this is the music he might have chosen.


Philip Brophy, Live score to Philippe Garrel’s Le Révélateur (1968), produced, engineered and mixed by Philip Brophy, guitar Dave Brown, keyboards Philip Brophy; commissioned for the 53rd Melbourne International Film Festival, 2004; Brisbane Powerhouse, March 16

RealTime issue #72 April-May 2006 pg. 21

© Robert Lort; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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