The Roxy Theatre hosts a new take on the works of Georges Méliès

By in Culture
A long exposure photograph of the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Hailing from France, production company Alcoléa & cie will be presenting En plein dans l’oeil, or “Right in the Eye,” on Nov. 8 as a cinéconcert featuring the cinematic works of illusionist and cinematic pioneer Georges Méliès, paired with an original score.

Considered the father of modern cinema by the Lumière Brothers, Méliès left an indelible legacy in the world of film. According to Jean-François Alcoléa, the composer and creator of the live show, Méliès was attracted to cinema for the possibilities it presented in his work as an illusionist.

“Méliès was present at the world’s very [first] screening, in Paris in 1895, by the Lumière Brothers. That was a light for him. He saw film as a way to further his magic tricks. His films in the cinema, however, were really important because he was the one who created special effects,” Alcoléa said. “He was the first one to build a film studio [and] to develop all the things that brought us cinema as we know it today.”

Though Alcoléa says he was not too familiar with Méliès’s films before working on En plein dans l’oeil, he viewed over 500 of Méliès’s films in his research. In narrowing such a massive filmography down to just 11 films, Alcoléa says he sought to represent the breadth of the filmmaker’s creative genius.

“Méliès’s films are different types of creations. There is comedy, science fiction, documentary — but there is also really a strong poetic element,” Alcoléa said.

Alcoléa & cie will present a soundtrack for each of the 11 films incorporated into the show. Together with the films, Alcoléa & cie’s music and lights combine for an experience that seeks to be more than a typical musical accompaniment to a film. Still, Alcoléa says he has striven to maintain the true spirit of Méliès’s original work.

“Here, and with my other projects, the film accompanies the music more than the music accompanies the film. Maybe you can be taken by the film, but you can also be taken by what we are doing on stage. It’s a way of syncing music and film together, and with the lights, [the show is] really close to the telos of the film — the desire and ends of the film,” Alcoléa said.

One of the ways through which Alcoléa tries to capture the true spirit of the films is through the show’s unique instrumentation. From the strange and haunting sounds of the theremin, aquaphone and musical saw to everyday objects such as plastic plates and old washing machine parts, the music is sure to complement the playful and often fantastic cinematic world of Méliès.

When asked why he chose to use such obscure instruments and unlikely objects, rather than a synthesizer that could produce similar sounds, Alcoléa stresses the importance of authenticity.

“I have always used real, analogic sound, not synthetic. I prefer the sound of real instruments because you have something physical, something living. To me, the sound from the synthesizer is not really living. In the show, what you have is something spectacular that you don’t get from just pushing a key. Also, the unique instrumentation mirrors Melies’s films.”

Tickets for En plein dans l’oeil are available at The Roxy Theatre in advance for $30 and at the door for $35.

Nick Hawrishok

Photo: Thomas Garchinski