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Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1200 20211120T1250 America/Chicago (In)Audibility in Film AMS 2021 ams@amsmusicology.org
Jacques Tati and the Sonic Construction of the Comedic
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 18:50:00 UTC

Jacques Tati has long been hailed as one of the greatest postwar European filmmakers. Grounded in the tradition of silent film, Chaplin especially, Tati created a unique cinematic style of non-verbal comedy, based on a sophisticated interaction of sound and image. Tati built his soundtracks himself, entirely in post-production, working them out as musical scores, playing on a subtle counterpoint of voices, music and sound effects. Dialogues were not treated as an essential dramatic component, words being used for their sonority rather than for their semantic meaning.

While film scholars discussed the characteristics of Tati's meticulous sound work (Chion 2003 and 1987, Castle 2019, De Valck 2005, Turvey 2020), most focus on sound effects. This paper seeks to offer a musicological perspective on Tati's soundtracks, highlighting the musical construction of the comedic in two of his most celebrated films, _Mon Oncle_ (1958) and _Play Time_ (1967). _Mon Oncle_ is built on the opposition between pre- and post-war worlds, sonically expressed by the contrasted use of music versus sound. The popular songs of Alain Romans and Franck Barcellini construct a nostalgic vision of the past, to which Hulot's chaotic world belongs, while the cleanliness of modernity is signaled by mechanical sounds. In _Play Time_, Hulot is lost in the city and disappears behind the sounds of modernity. Tati's modernist 'de-emphasis' of the comic character, as Turvey puts it, is reflected in a radical reconfiguration of the relationship between music and sound. Music is noticeably absent in rhythmic choreographies of sound that characterize the first part of the film. The sonorous ballet progressively leads to the climactic scene at the Royal Garden, where the restaurant's collapse is accompanied by an increasingly frenzied live jazz band, as if music could erupt and take over, provoking the fall of the modern structure.

Drawing on recently published archival documents (Castle 2019) and personal interviews with Marie-France Siegler, Tati's close assistant since _Play Time_, this paper examines the evolution of Tati's soundscapes and the significant role they played in constructing the comedic imagination in the post-war audio-visual landscape.

Presenters
AS
Anna Stoll-Knecht
University Of Applied Sciences And Arts Of Southern Switzerland
Operatic Illusions
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 18:50:00 UTC

In 1905–6, the Gaumont cinematographer Alice Guy directed a series of operatic _phonoscènes_: short silent films that starred--or at least seemed to star--famous French singers acting along to their own phonograph recordings, which exhibitors would later synchronize during screenings. Many of the sound recordings did indeed capture the voices of celebrated singers; most, in fact, were existing commercial recordings chosen for the reputation of their creators (Gianati 2012). The films themselves, however, featured not famous but fledgling singers--students enrolled in Rose Caron's class at the Paris Conservatoire--who lip-synced along to the recordings while acting out the scenes.


It should come as no surprise that established opera singers were dismayed to discover that exhibitors (perhaps unwittingly) advertised these _phonoscènes_ as if the images mirrored--rather than just mimicked--their voices, nor that next to none were willing to appear on camera even when asked. After all, early cinema carried none of the cultural prestige of opera, to which the emerging medium turned, at least in part, for artistic legitimization (Altman 2005; Fryer 2005). What does seem striking, though, is renowned operatic soprano-turned-professor Caron's enthusiasm for such synchronized sound film experiments, which for her doubled as pedagogical experiments.


Drawing on a wide array of primary sources--including the papers of Caron and Guy, Gaumont, and the Conservatoire; pedagogical writings related to singing and acting; sound recordings; and film stills--this paper investigates what it meant for Caron's pupils to embody--literally--operatic recordings not their own, to attune their lips to other singers' voices, and to fit their bodies into the shapes implied by others' by then iconic performances. Untangling the practical and pedagogical purposes that gave rise to these operatic illusions reveals something significant about operatic culture under the early Third Republic: the extent to which emerging technologies and the French operatic canon itself--by which I mean not just the works themselves but also the performance practices that had grown up alongside them--disciplined the voices and bodies of rising performers, whether on stage or on screen, and to what end.

Presenters
SF
Sarah Fuchs
Syracuse University
Queering the Fantastical Gap in the Films of François Ozon
Individual Paper 12:00 Noon - 12:50 PM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 18:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 18:50:00 UTC

Over the past three decades, François Ozon has emerged as one of the leading figures in French queer cinema: most of his work centres on characters' struggles with their sexual identity while also "queering" such traditional genres as the coming-of-age film and the musical. Music plays an important role in Ozon's processes. His characters frequently sing and dance, especially to European popular music of the 1960s and 70s, using this music to signify their shifting sexualities. In films like _Une robe d'été_ and _Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes_, characters' inability or refusal to engage with music signals their psychological displacement, while in _Swimming Pool_ and _5x2_, characters change dance partners to indicate their otherwise sublimated willingness to experiment sexually. In addition to positioning their characters on shifting spectrums of identity, Ozon's musical sequences play with conventional genre forms as they shift around what Robynn Stilwell calls the 'fantastical gap' between diegetic and non-diegetic music. In conventional integrated musicals the performers are highly professional and rehearsed but do not know they are performing, and the moves in and out of "musically enhanced reality mode" (a concept coined by Raymond Knapp) are optimally smooth. In Ozon's films, though, the characters are both aware and unaware that they are performing, themselves sometimes stuck in the fantastical gap, making evident the sometimes awkward joins. In _Les amants criminels_ and _Sous le sable_ popular music is both heard and not heard by troubled characters, while in Ozon's revisionist musical _8 femmes_, the characters themselves perform in a knowing way very unlike the Hollywood musicals he is otherwise referencing throughout the film. Ozon's musical world can be either threatening or liberating, or, in his most recent film _Été 85_, both simultaneously; in this coming-of-age film, source music and underscore highlight disparate genres (comedy, melodrama, thriller, and musical) as the protagonist Alexis attempts to come to terms with his sexual identity. Throughout his films, Ozon uses music to problematise both the sexual identities of his characters and the genre identities of his films, leading audiences to question music's traditional filmic positioning.

Presenters
GC
Gregory Camp
University Of Auckland
University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland
University of Auckland
Syracuse University
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