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Cinema Caberet: Live Film Narration at LA’s REDCAT Weds. April 29

April 26, 2009

“Neo-benshi at its best mashes up subversive written scripts, deft acting, and acrobatic mind-eye coordination.” Steve Dickinson, The Poetry Center, SFSU.

Last December 2007, I attended my first Neo Benshi event. It wowed me in a way that few events do, and in fact was probably one of my favorite arts events of the last 10 years.

So when I heard from Jen Hofer that another event was in the works, it made the top of my “To DO” list. This Neo Benshi event “The Cinema Cabaret: Live Film Narration” co-curated by Jen Hofer and Konrad Steiner on Wednesday April 29th, 8:30 p.m. at the REDCAT Theater 631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles promises to once again take attendees on a fantastic journey through familiar territory with new narration. <>

“Everyone talks about the movies,” writes neo-benshi instigator, curator and performer Konrad Steiner in Camerawork. “Why not talk back to the movies? Make speech graffiti.”

The Cinema Cabaret showcases poets and filmmakers talking back to the movies, performing new scripts to muted scenes from feature films. The format is based on a silent-era practice of narrating films live from just offscreen. The “benshi”—as the professional narrator was called in Japan, where the practice was wildly popular—would write and perform an original script to tell the stories of films as they were projected. The benshis were sometimes stars in their own right, even more than the actors in the films.

Neo-benshi’s modern twist is to take sound movies, mute them and re-inscribe new meanings to the pictures. Through commentary, ventriloquism, re-narration and anti-narration, a new form of live cinema takes shape that is, like all good satire, simultaneously an homage and a critique. This new practice has flourished in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and New York over the last 5 years.

The program at REDCAT features Los Angeles premieres by three writer-performers from San Francisco and four from Los Angeles. The Cinema Cabaret will consist of seven short performances which re-interpret, subvert, mash-up, and otherwise talk back to film scenes from several eras coming out of both Hollywood and Bollywood.

Neela Banerjee :  Silsila (1981)
Andrew Choate :  The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
Jaime Cortez : Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? (1967)
Jen Hofer : On the Beach (1959)
Douglas Kearney and Nicole McJamerson : Fantasia (1940)
Lee Anne Schmitt : The Shootist (1976)
Konrad Steiner : Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 30, 2009 8:23 pm

    If you’re too far away and a creative type, I encourage you to make your own! It was an amazing show….so cool! If you couldn’t go last night, Jen Hofer writes: If you’re weeping about missing the Cinema Cabaret at REDCAT last night, do please join us tonight:

    8 p.m.
    Machine Project
    ** free **
    machine project website

    Even The L.A. Times GUIDE thinks you should come!!

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