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THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928)
Saturday, May 19, 2018 8:00PM
Copley Symphony Hall
THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928)
THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928)*: Silent Film with Ensemble Accompaniment
A Fox Theatre Film Series Presentation
John Stubbs, conductor
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is often cited as one of the most remarkable films ever made. Its series of mesmerizing close-ups and the yearning, hypnotic performance of Renée Jeanne Falconetti as Joan are simply unforgettable. The film’s sense of religious transcendence will be heightened by a unique collaboration with San Diego art music collective Luscious Noise, who will perform John Luther Adams’ stunning In the White Silence live as the film plays.
"You cannot know the history of silent film unless you know the face of Renée Jeanne [Maria] Falconetti. In a medium without words, where the filmmakers believed that the camera captured the essence of characters through their faces, to see Falconetti in Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) is to look into eyes that will never leave you." – Roger Ebert
A note from the conductor, John Stubbs: First, that face. Maria Falconetti was mainly a stage actress when Carl Theodore Dreyer chose her for his masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. This was to be her only starring role in cinema, and it is considered to be one of the finest performances ever recorded on film. Dreyer’s camera never strays far from that face. As the film progresses her visage becomes a mantra that provides relief from the mocking and skepticism of her interlocutors. The intertitles are directly from the transcript of her trial, making it one of the first courtroom dramas on film. Her innocent but brutally honest answers to questions meant to entrap her could not have been improved by the best script doctors. But that face, showing fear, humility, sadness, resignation; to have that amount of film time on a face is surprising even after almost 100 years.
Serendipitously, while listening to John Luther Adams’ In the White Silence one evening I was watching a screening of The Passion and could not believe how this enchanting and haunting score captured the mood of the film without relying on a literal frame-by-frame punctuation. His score alternates between static chords that appear to have no beginning or end, occasionally interrupted by the warmth of a string quartet or by the ethereal flecks of the two vibraphones, harp and celeste. The synchronicity between Adams’ In the White Silence and Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc is so remarkable that although created 70 years apart, they seem destined to be combined into this hypnotic mélange.
And that face!
*San Diego Symphony Orchestra does not appear as part of this presentation, though several Luscious Noise members are SDSO musicians.
About Luscious Noise: Luscious Noise breaks the barrier of tradition by bringing classical music performances down to earth in unique settings. Drawing on musicians from the San Diego Symphony, its focus is creating compelling combinations of music, dance and film that are meant to become an experience for the audience that transcends the sum of the parts.
Note: this film, though from the Silent Era, may not be appropriate for young children.
Announcements of upcoming theatrical silent film exhibitions.