Media Arts Program

Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.

$8 general, $5 seniors/members, FREE for UB students (with ID)

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Emulsified #5: The Passion of Joan of Arc

Carl Theodor Dreyer
(1928, 114 min)

with live score by Pamela Swarts

Hallwalls presents a screening of Carl Dreyer's iconic 1928 silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc as part of its ongoing screening series EMULSIFIED, which screens 16mm prints from the archive of DMS at the University at Buffalo.

This special screening will feature a live score performed by Buffalo musician Pamela Swarts.

There are numerous fascinating details about Dreyer's film:

"The film was shot on one huge concrete set modeled on medieval architecture in order to realistically portray the Rouen prison. The film is known for its cinematography and use of close-ups. Dreyer also didn't allow the actors to wear make-up and used lighting designs that made the actors look more grotesque."

"Dreyer's final version of the film was cut down due to pressure from the Archbishop of Paris and from government censors. For several decades it was released and viewed in various re-edited versions that had attempted to restore Dreyer's final cut. In 1981 a film print of Dreyer's final cut of the film was finally discovered in a mental institution in Oslo, Norway and re-released. Despite the objections and cutting of the film by clerical and government authorities, it was a major critical success when first released..."

"Dreyer would always clear the set whenever Falconetti needed to act in a particularly emotional or important scene, allowing her to focus without any distractions. Dreyer often had difficulties explaining himself to Falconetti and was known to turn bright red and begin stammering when passionately directing her."

"For Falconetti, the performance was an ordeal. Legends from the set tell of Dreyer forcing her to kneel painfully on stone and then wipe all expression from her face&mdash:so that the viewer would read suppressed or inner pain. He filmed the same shots again and again, hoping that in the editing room he could find exactly the right nuance in her facial expression." (Ebert)

"The film had one of the most expensive sets ever built for a European film up to that time.[16] Upon being given a budget of seven million francs, Dreyer constructed an enormous octagonal concrete set to depict Rouen Castle. Production designers Hermann Warm and Jean Hugo were inspired by medieval miniatures for their designs, adding unnatural angles and perspectives to add to Joan's emotional state of mind.[5] They also relied on medieval manuscripts with accurate architectural drawings, such as John Mandeville's Livre de Merveilles.[17] The huge set was built as one complete, interconnecting structure instead of in separate locations. The castle had towers in all four corners with concrete walls running along the sides. Each wall was 10 centimeters thick so that they could support the weight of actors, technicians and equipment.[17] A functional drawbridge was also built into one of the walls. Inside the walls were small houses, the courtyard where the burning took place and a cathedral. The entire set was painted pink so that it would appear grey in the black and white film and contrast against the white sky above it."

"In the 1920s film music was normally played live in the theatre. Different scores were used for the two premieres of the Passion of Joan of Arc in Copenhagen and Paris. The music of the Paris version, for orchestra and singers, has survived and has been revived.[37] It was composed by Leo Pouget and Victor Alix, who as well as being film composers, both wrote operettas; Pouget was coming to the end of his career whereas Alix was regarded by Le Ménestrel as becoming an established composer.[38] Their score of Joan of Arc has been seen in recent years as having some limitations,[37] but seems to have been regarded as acceptable at the time. In 1929 selections were released in 78 format in a performance by "l'orchestre symphonique du Lutetia Wagram" (the Lutetia Wagram being a large Parisian cinema of the time, since demolished).

Dreyer also heard the sound-track of Joseph-Marie Lo Duca's version of the film, featuring Bach, Albinoni and Vivaldi, of which he disapproved; he appears not to have encountered a score which he considered definitive.[39] Since Dreyer's death and the rediscovery of the original print, numerous composers have provided music for the film."

Curated by Carl Lee.

About Emulsified: There is a room off the fluorescent-lit white corridors of the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo called the Bone Yard.

The Bone Yard is where pieces of equipment not yet completely trashed come to wait out their days. A limbo of sorts. A purgatory of tech souls. The objects sit on shelves holding onto the feeble hope that maybe in a few years their particular approach to rendering an image or sound—with tubes, or alternating scan lines, frame buffers and 8-bit audio, magnetized particles on tape—will come back into favor. Like a comet returning after 17 years. Or the eighties.

In the same room, sit rows of metal cans, each a bit wider than 16 millimeters. In each of those cans is a reel of film, each containing a series of thousands of emulsified images rolled up on acetate. Light struck images, but kept in the dark. These films are what remains of the university's 16mm film collection, saved (barely, and some quite literally) from the trash bin of progress.

Most of these prints haven't seen the light of day in years, possibly decades. Animation. Documentary. Industrial films. Other Sundry and Miscellaneous. Some are visionary works. Some are less profound, but speak to us nonetheless—of film, of light, of the time of times, of all time.