Director Steven M Martin / 1993 / USA

Bizarre, often riotously funny and consistently fascinating—that's Theremin What, at first glance. seems to be an incredibly esoteric subject is instead an absorbing tribute to a emarkable inventor and artist. Leon Theremin excelled at both physics and the cello in school, these mixed interests resulting in the invention of the electronic instrument he named after himself. The Theremin was played by moving one's hands through an electromagnetic field. Anyone who as heard music from the soundtrack of The Day the Earth Stood Still to the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations will recognise it instantly. If you're in ny doubt, the interview segment with a thoroughly loopy Brian Wilson-momentarily dropping out of orbit-will clarify any confusion.

Possibly deluded, the inventor did not onsider the Theremin marginal or formulaic but intended it to be used as part of classical orchestral instrumentation. Unfortunately tragic Sci-Fi scores abounded, sullying the reputation of the Theremin and reminded everyone that it was the wacky woo-woo sound that heralded the screen appearance of many an outer-space extra decked out in a gorilla suit, a divers helmet and three rolls of aluminium foil.

Suddenly, in 1938, Theremin was apparently kidnapped by agents of Stalin, his friends assumed the worst-and at this point in the documentary, so do we-which makes his reappearance all the more surprising. Steven Martin's interviews serve as an amazing backdrop to one exceptionally odd yarn. Complete with marvellous newsreel dotage and personal anecdotes, this is visual biography at its best. Theremin is a playful and -"grossing telling of a story that is already stranger than fiction.

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