Will Wonders Never Cease: The Valerie Project plays an original score to the obscure Czech film 'Valerie and Her Week of Wonders' on Friday at the Brookdale Lodge.
The Valerie Project at Brookdale Lodge
The 1970s cult Czech film wouldn't be complete without a live performance of the score by members of Espers, Fern Knight and Grass.
By Paul Davis
A historical footnote to all except the cultish individuals who obsess over cinematic ephemera, 1970's Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is the sort of film long due for a revival. But when Espers ringleader Greg Weeks came across the cult classic, a deviant slice of late-model Czech New Wave cinema that revels in coming-of-age tropes, vampiric debauchery and oedipal excess, he chose to pay tribute in an grand way: by recruiting a handful of his fellow Espers players along with members of Fern Knight and Grass to compose an all-new score to the movie.
The original soundtrack, composed by Lubos Fiser, has become an obscure yet important touchstone to musicians working on the edges of experimental and psychedelic music. For this small but vocal group of fans, the idea of a slew of hip young musicians composing a replacement soundtrack could be considered heresy. Weeks has found the response to be positive, perhaps due to the band's reverence for the original soundtrack. "The music was part of why [the film] was so important to us," Weeks notes. "What we are doing—paying homage to the film—is in a sense a homage to the soundtrack, because it had such an impact of what the movie meant to us."
For Weeks and The Valerie Project—the crack band he assembled from Espers band mates and friends—the project's greatest challenge came in breaking away from the original soundtrack's indelible blueprint. Weeks explains that to create a clear creative space, the band "tried watching the movie many times without the sound, and stood in a room playing and let it flow out as kind of a pure event."
As the band has played select dates, performing its set to a subtitled print of the film, they've been embraced even by die-hards. Weeks did get his first piece of hate mail recently, from a purist who suggested the band should instead focus on exposing the film in its original form to a larger audience. He was unfazed. "For us it's a no-brainer that people who get interested in the film through our project will go out and find the original film," he says. "The Czechs sure aren't too interested in getting it out there and exposed."Valerie neophytes should prepare themselves for what can be an extreme sensory experience—the original movie is disjointed and a little schizophrenic, and The Valerie Project's moody soundtrack heightens the original vision in brilliant but at times disturbing ways. Weeks acknowledges this fact with a chuckle, noting that "for a lot of people, just seeing the film for the first time can be an overwhelming experience!"
THE VALERIE PROJECT comes to the Brookdale Lodge, 11570 Highway 9, on Friday, Nov. 2 at 8:30pm. Greg Ashley opens and tickets are $10 at the door. For more information, call 831.338.6433.
Send a letter to the editor about this story.