National Film Theatre, London, 2 September 2006
Laurent Garnier is a world renowned DJ, respected producer
and has never been one afraid of experimenting outside of
what people may perceive to be his boundaries as a techno
artist. He has produced dancefloor classics such as the
hypnotic Crispy Bacon and the darkly euphoric Flashback
while always being wilfully unpredictable, as his current
Retrospective collection shows.
well as providing some of the finest dance music, he has
also experimented with a vast variety of tempos, styles
and sounds, his collaboration with jazz pianist Bugge
Wesseltoft a case in point. Tonight at the National
Film Theatre his versatility is further demonstrated as
he provides the musical accompaniment to 1929 film, Finis
Terrae, which he first performed at The Louvre earlier this
apology is offered during the introductory speech for the
bottom of the screen, and therefore on-screen commentary,
being cut off and it does make the plot slightly more difficult
to follow but Jean Epstein's silent tale
of a soured friendship is a simple one so suffers little
from this technical hitch. Initially it proves hard to shift
concentration from watching Garnier in action (tweaking
and nodding away to the results) to focussing on the screen
but after a few minutes both film and the Frenchman's live
soundtrack prove immersive.
plot involves two adolescent friends, Ambroise and Jean-Marie,
who gather wrack (dried seaweed) on the small, deserted
island of Bannec alongside two older workmates. A dispute
begins when Ambroise runs to fetch their last bottle of
wine from their store and trips, breaking the bottle and
cutting his thumb, with Jean-Marie also incensed by his
belief that his friend has stolen his prized knife. A silence
descends between the two as Ambroise wound becomes infected
and he gradually slips into a debilitating fever.
older workers see him as merely lazy as he lies ill on the
beach while Jean-Marie, bitter about the 'theft', leaves
his friend for dead until he rediscovers the knife and realises
Ambroise has done no such thing. This galvanises Jean-Marie
to attempt to single-handedly row his friend back to main
island Ouessant for medical attention, though it's hard
to have any empathy for his heroism considering his earlier
over-reaction and willingness to watch his friend suffer.
soundtracks every moment with great awareness and sensitivity.
Ambroise's dash across the pebble beach with the bottle
of wine receives a frantically unstable flurry of keys and
abstract noise which proves the perfect prelude to the accident
that follows. The fever sequence meanwhile unsettles both
visually and musically. Epstein's layered filming of the
lighthouse coming in and out of focus, the harsh sun beating
down on Ambroise as he suffers alone on the beach and the
unbearable disorientation he feels are underpinned by intense,
manic bursts of noise. At times it touches upon the abstract
glitch sound from leftfield dance music's outer reaches,
and proves a fitting accompaniment.
versatility is perfectly suited for the job in hand. The
soundtrack builds and swells with darkness and light portrayed
through euphoric chords and edgy atmospherics while the
most dramatic moments are marked by crunching beats as the
drums crash in and the music overwhelms, almost over-powers.
Tension builds as treacherous rocks and fog threaten to
scupper the two friends' journey back to the safety of the
doctor and again the cinematography, lingering shots of
the rough, dangerous sea, are given the ideal aural edge.
At times reminiscent of the ever-evolving music of Tangerine
Dream and at others indulging in accordion-led
merriment, Garnier offers momentary glimpses of his house
and techno background while on occasion he imposes it explicitly
through thundering bass or dark synth stabs.
the emotive tones of Radiohead's 'No Surprises'
to end, the multi-talented Frenchman deservedly gets an
extended round of applause. Laurent Garnier's emotional
understanding of the film and deftness of touch throughout
has made this unique experience all the more special. Long
may he continue to experiment and challenge both himself
and his audience.
- Ian Roullier, 09/2006