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Rare Pink Floyd film retrospective review Print E-mail

REVIEW OF THE FILM RETROSPECTIVE

Pink Floyd Interstellar film retrospective programme coverAs part of the opening weekend, three days of screenings were arranged in the amphitheatre of the Cite de la Musique. Despite heavy demand, the Cite confirmed that the films scheduled for the opening weekend, would ONLY be shown that weekend. The film theatre is fully booked for the rest of the year.

In amongst the nice to see, but straightforward footage shown, was some incredible stuff that hasn't seen the light of day since originally recorded! Here's a run-down, day by day...

FRIDAY OCTOBER 10th 2003

Things kicked off at 7pm, with the 40 minute BBC Omnibus documentary "Pink Floyd The Story", from 1994, followed by Peter Whitehead's "London 66-67". This was the filmed performance of Interstellar Overdrive and Nick's Boogie, shot in the studio and interspersed with clips from the UFO etc. At 8:30pm, it was time to ease back in the (pretty comfortable) seats and enjoy Barbet Schroeder's "More". Good to see the film presented so well - a nice end to a busy day.

SATURDAY OCTOBER 11th 2003

An earlier start today, with a 3pm screening of Alan Parker's treatment of "The Wall", from 1982, followed by a rare airing of the 1968 documentary, "San Francisco". As a number of you will know, this features a version of Interstellar Overdrive from, its believed, October 1966. The documentary itself is fifteen minutes, and at no point shows the band on screen. Instead, it is a fast moving collage of a day in the life of SF.

A packed amphitheatre then experienced, at just after 5pm, Adrian Maben's Director's Cut of Live At Pompeii. This went down very well, not least for the great sound presentation and clear projected picture (indeed, everything shown looked - and sounded - excellent). That concluded the first of the two Saturday sessions.

The second session was due to start with a questions and answers session with Storm Thorgerson and Henri Lecomte, a French music journalist. Sadly, as Henri explained to the stunned audience, Storm had been taken ill and was in a French hospital. It was a touching moment when Henri simply stated, in the only English he used in the hour and a half discussion, "Storm, wish you were here", which was met with affectionate applause in tribute to Storm.

Following Henri's talk was a screening of the 2001 BBC documentary, "Syd Barrett - Crazy Diamond". Presented in English with French subtitles, as was the concluding film of the night, it was met with great applause at the end. It seemed like many of the audience had not previously seen this, despite it now being available to buy on video and DVD.

10.30pm saw the final film. Many of the audience were flagging after a long day there, and the seats became even more comfortable. However, the item, Bob Smeaton's 2000 documentary "Behind The Wall", perked up most of the assembled bodies. Lasting for 53 minutes, almost double that of the version released for download on the internet, it was a fascinating and at times, amusing look at the presentation of The Wall. To see Roger's chuckling over the thought of building the wall and not knocking it back down again was priceless! Close to midnight we exited the Cite de la Musique, the rest of the building long closed, and back to the Metro station, to prepare for the excitement of Sunday's programme of film!

SUNDAY OCTOBER 12th 2003

Arguably the most intriguing and unusual schedule of the weekend, the Sunday sold out well before the other sessions. Kicking off at 3pm with a bit of light relief, was Dirk Sanders 1977 film of the Pink Floyd Ballet. To me and many others in the amphitheatre, much of the hoofing around the stage was quite comical and ungainly, and as the documentary rolled, frequent sniggers and laughs were heard from all quarters. If you haven't seen this, it consists of ballet dancers moving to the Floyd's music - Echoes, Careful With That Axe, etc. The original version of the ballet had the band playing behind the dancers; later versions used their taped performances and a heavily dry-iced stage. The screening seemed to come at a soporific time of day for many, most of whom had been spending serious hours at the exhibition over the weekend, and there were a few people dropping off to sleep at various points!

No time for sleep when the next item started, though! The plundering of the BBC and INA archives of rare Floyd material was always going to be the big draw for me and many others, and happily it did not disappoint. Here's a rundown of what was shown, described as best as possible from my scribbled notes in the darkness! Dates, places, and other details are as shown on screen...

Things started off with Astronomy Domine from Look Of The week, with a Hans Kellar introduction, and fading from the screen with his damning words: "...not altogether convincing", which gave the audience a laugh! Next, the Arnold Layne promo from Bouton Rouge, May 21st 1967. This is the standard, larking around on the beach promo. Good quality though. Next, clearly taken from the BBC TV TOTP2 rebroadcast (captions still present!) was the See Emily Play promo shot in the park, with David Gilmour and co miming (deliberately badly) and playing cricket with the instruments. This was followed by Flaming, which included Roger on penny whistle. Both these clips were dated February 24th 1968, and from Bouton Rouge.

Next up, Set The Controls from BBC's Omnibus, November 3rd 1968. This is the oft-seen clip, principally in red and yellow, of the band in an ornate building. Nice to see the full version of this for a change, rather than the snippet we normally get.

A real rarity next: Let There Be More Light, from Surprise Party, December 31st 1968. A superb looking and sounding performance (the bass and kick drum sound is particularly prominent), which looks like it was filmed in a pub's back room! It features Floyd on a cramped little stage, with bored looking "chicks" dancing with one or two lecherous chaps, and a balding "Uncle Frank" - you know, the embarrassing relative who insists on dancing (badly) at family parties! Despite the fact that there is very little sign of David, standing in the blurred background most of the time, he contributes a great solo to the song, accompanied by a storming Nick Mason.

Next up, my personal highlight - a black and white performance of Saucerful Of Secrets, from French show Forum Musiques, February 15th 1969. With superb sound and picture quality throughout, it begins with David being interviewed about the band, which he introduces to the programme's host. He looks incredibly relieved when his intro chores are complete! The recording features superb close-ups on the band, at times relaxed, at others, embarrassed... the reason why in a moment!

The stage itself is tiny - perhaps six foot (two metres) square, with Roger, David and Nick all balanced precariously. Rick is stationed next to them, and the audience is breathing down their necks, surrounding them with their bored/curious/embarrassed expressions. The song starts with Nick playing his cymbals with his fingertips, until the album version, on tape in the studio fades up at the part where Nick plays his fast, repeated tattoo. The camera focuses tightly on Nick here, who does an admirable job at pretending to be live. A wide shot shows the others concentrating heavily on their instruments but there is no way that they are even trying to replicate the sounds being heard - especially David.

That part finishes, back to Rick and a live performance again. The final part is again pre-recorded, and audience faces again show their confusion over what is going on. This last, mimed part, shows Nick doing random fills and small splashes, and David quietly strumming to a tune in his head...

A fantastic clip - the likes of which I thought I'd never see! To see them mime to half (HALF!) of a song in the studio in this way was great - and the faces of everyone there was unforgettable. I would love to see this again...

Two more clips to go. Firstly, Pop2 on October 24th 1970, and a nice, fully live, full colour version of Careful With That Axe Eugene. Roger's hair is notably short - a strange thing to stick in the mind, I know! At one point, he gets some feedback during the whispered sequence, and shoots daggers (metaphorically) towards stage left, where the camera just happens to be. A great performance of the track, although there are no trademark explosions on stage with the exception of Nick's drumming which is extremely animated! The music and the picture in places don't match, which is a mild irritant, and the audience (if there was one) cannot be seen at any point. A great clip though.

Finally, from the BBC's Old Grey Whistle Test, is the "French windows" version of the One Of These Days promo. Interestingly enough it is, for once, the complete promo, starting with someone sat down on a settee, and running right to the end fade. Has this ever been screened before, either on TV or elsewhere, with these parts?

All in all, a fantastic fifty minutes and worth the price of admission alone! Finally, at 5pm, a presentation of (an edited version of) the newly remastered PULSE, shot at Earls Court on 20th October 1994. This was presented in 4:3 picture format, with what sounded like the surround mix that David Gilmour and James Guthrie have been working on. The picture was incredibly crisp and clear, as was the sound - which was nice and loud! Just like being there... the tracks selected for this edit were: Shine On, Learning To Fly, High Hopes, Another Brick part 2, the whole of Dark Side Of The Moon, and Run Like Hell. A nice taster for the forthcoming DVD of PULSE.


And that was that. The exhibition, once again, was closed when we stumbled out of the dark, and so off to a local bar for beer and snails! A great set of films, well put together and presented. Obviously, there were some of us who wanted to see more of the obscure stuff, but they had to appeal to the more casual Floyd fans too. Also a real shame that these films were only able to be shown on the opening weekend. There would be many people unable to go on that weekend, who will have missed out on some absolute crackers...

 
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