Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Passion of Joan of Arc

Carl Th. Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
with live optical music score by
In The Nursery

Grace Cathedral
8pm Monday, May 11, 2009

I'd never seen this famous silent classic before, & Grace Cathedral turned out to be a fitting venue for both the film & In The Nursery's accompanying score. The movie, full of close-ups, unusual camera movements & abstract spaces, must have seemed strange even to its original audience. I found it unrelentingly oppressive, but it has an inevitability to it that kept my interest the whole time.

In The Nursery is basically 2 English brothers that operate a couple of laptops & electronic keyboards. I would describe their score as being ambient electronic music. It sets a somber, church-like mood & does not draw attention away from the movie. The cathedral space enhanced its already reverberant sound. Due to equipment problems, there were several times when the sound went dead for long stretches. I thought this was kind of funny because, according to our program notes, Dreyer originally intended the movie to be seen without any music.

The audience sat in sober silence long after the screen went dark & only started applauding when the house lights went up. The two brothers were so modest & low-key that they didn't seem to realize that the applause was for them, though one of them apologized for the technical glitches. They seemed to have a lot of fans in the audience, which was an interesting mix of baby-boomers & hipsters.


Stephanie Dodaro said...

Hmm... Too bad it didn't gel. I always want those types of pieces to work. I should check Grace's event schedule more often.

In a related matter, I caught a screening of the 1923 silent version of "Hunchback of Notre Dame," with live organ accompaniment, at Grace on New Year's Eve.

The organist did a bang up job. And Lon Chaney was excellent. Movie itself was longer than it needed to be. But it was a delight to walk out of the church right as the bells chimed midnight; one could hear fireworks going off and people cheering.

In addition, there were no hipsters at the NYE event.

Axel Feldheim said...

What a great way to celebrate NYE. I've also seen Lon Chaney's Hunchback at Grace Cathedral, though I believe it was on a Halloween. Someone accompanied the movie on the cathedral organ, & when Quasimodo rings the bells at the climax, they ring the bells in the church. Thrilling!

I should clarify that I have nothing against hipsters. In fact I probably wish I were one.

sfmike said...

The boomers were probably there because they saw the movie 30 years ago in Film Studies courses in college, and the hipsters were probably there for the musicians.

I love your Buddhist regard of hipsters and confession that you'd probably like to be one. Young people who slavishly follow the latest cultural trends have always struck me as benignly amusing, even when I was young, but the real hipsters are people who think for themselves. Do the latter, and you ARE a hipster. Maybe you already are one without knowing it.

Axel Feldheim said...

I believe that the perspicacious sfmike has pegged the demographics for this event perfectly.

This blog should be good evidence for whether or not I am a true hipster. *Gasp* Perhaps I am a hipster after all!