Saturday, 7 March 2009
Just got home from a showing of Alla Nazimova's Salome at BFI Southbank as part of the Birds Eye View Festival. Well, that's not something you see every day. A 1920s silent film based on an Oscar Wilde play with costumes inspired by Aubrey Beardsley and a beautiful, feared young woman (played by a 40-something 'lesbian Hollywood icon') dancing about in a crazed way asking for a head on a plate. PLUS Bishi and band live, playing a specially composed score with singing and all kinds of instruments, from a keyboard that sounded like a cinema organ to sitars. Or something like sitars. What do i know? (Although the wonders of YouTube mean that, like half a million others, i can watch Ravi Shankar showing George Harrison how to play sitar.)
The whole experience was extraordinary. The film is a camp, stylised, fantastical spectacle while the music was stirring, at times hectic, at times haunting. Bishi herself has an amazing presence and her final sashay across the stage was a jollier ending to the evening than Salome's ritualised spearing by soldiers. A good time was had by all - except for an older gent who was in a fury because Bishi was blocking his view of the screen. 'We didn't come to see you!' he shouted at her at the end, which wasn't all that gentlemanly.