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‘La Roue’ is a 1922 film by Abel Gance, the most innovative and popular French director of his time. This movie was mainly influential for its technical qualities: point-of-view shots, superimpositions, fuzzy filters, distorting mirrors, out-of-focus shots and white masks. All possible camera tricks were employed to create a representation of subjectivity. Its greatest accomplishment is in its use of rapid cutting. Though the separate chapters of the composition refer to the movie in a forward manner, both composers were not directly inspired by the pedestrian melodramatic plot Gance used to display his technical
‘la roue’, the musical work, kept the idea of the wheel as a metaphor for life, but during the process of composing, other influences became abundantly clear: mainly the musical library the composers inadvertently used as a toolbox. The basal musical approach intertwined with a strict formal theoretical view, led to a frivolous development, with nods to popular tunes and abrupt temporal or tonal changes. Each ‘chapitre’ thrives on a different mood setting.
All in all, this ‘musical montage’ results in a piece that on a first level
distracts the listener with hints of cheeky buoyance and unexpected and/or eruptive changes. But as in life, where everything accords to the same basic recurring motifs, every turn of the wheel in ‘la roue’ leads us to a pure and definite end.