Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Mechanical Man (L'uomo Meccanico)

Last Aug. 6, the Italian Embassy, in cooperation with Shangri La Plaza in Mandaluyong City, presented their entry in the 3rd Silent Film Festival.

Their entry is entitled 'The Mechanical Man' (L'uomo Meccanico). This 1921 sci-fi/ thriller flick is about a city terrorized by a remote controlled mechanical robot, rampaging, destroying, stealing and killing. The robot was designed by a scientist but built by a mysterious woman who escaped from a prison hospital. The police are unable to stop this monstrosity. But with the help of a second robot built by the scientist, the two mechanical men faced off in a social gathering run amok with the presence of these metal monsters. A fight between the two ensued and after the smoke clears, both robots were destroyed.

The film is amusing despite the primitive special effects. The robot suit is well made and the movement was adequate. You'll be drawn in by the actors' over the top facial expression and physical method acting to be able to convey their emotions since there were no sound to convey them clearly. I also noticed that some parts are a bit risque for a 1920's film. From what I know, people back then were a bit conservative when it comes to showing skin. But there was a scene with a naked woman lying face down, and another scene where the antagonist raises hes skirt up to her knockers to inject herself with something or whatever. Anyway, its a shame that they were only able to recover 40% of this film as it is considered a very rare movie. Most of the early parts of the story were conveyed via text projected on the screen, which made it hard to get the full extent of the human side of the story.

The setup for Caliph8 and company.

In the days of the silent films, a pianist or orchestra usually accompany the film viewing to set the mood of the story. For this event, in leiu with their theme of art and technology standing side by side, the Caliph8 was tasked of setting the mood by using synths, drum machines and other remixed ambient sounds to augment the film. Along with Kalila Agilos, Malek Lopez, Pasta Groove and Tad Ermitano, they gave the film a score with a modern funky house/ drum and bass twist to it.

The rest of the viewing comprises of a movie deconstruction by the group. Its done by taking visual allusions and actual parts from the film, digitally manipulated and scored in real time. Like the cartoon-music remixes presented in Cartoon Network. To me, the presentation was an impressive a freestyle face-off, both audio and visually. It was like having a trip without the illegal substances. Their performance was greeted with a round of applause from an impressed audience.

I would have loved to see the movie in its entirety. For all its flaws as a primitive film, its still a good watch.

The 3rd Silent Film Festival highlights entries from Japan, Spain, Germany, France and Italy through Goethe-Institut, Instituto Cervantes, Japan Foundation, Republique Francaise, and Republica Italiana.

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