Wednesday, February 11, 2009

As lame an injury as could possibly be and THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (62)

I'm a huge wuss. Lets just put that out there. I never played any legitimate sports. Have rarely put myself in to any sort of danger that wasn't directly preceded by many many many many beers. And in all this eschewing of treacherous situations I've always believed that I'd be able to better avoid these things athletes and you know, tough people have to deal with because of their, er, athleticism and, uh, toughness.

So, I'm pretty pissed to realize that somewhere between typing on my computer and making fucking coffee I've somehow injured my left wrist/forearm. Yup, through the hardcore exercise regime of tamping coffee grounds and tip-tapping on this infernal machine, I've done something to these crucial muscles that has left my arm tingly and at times numb.

I am the weakest man alive. I am a limp-wristed tyrannosaurus rex. I am a ball of sucky goo broken by espresso and machinery.

It is one of my favorite experiences on the planet to come in to a film thinking I'm going to hate it, and coming out completely infatuated with almost every aspect. The Passion of Joan of Arc (62) was just that sort of film. There's something about the way Carl Th. Dreyer portrays his Joan of Arc (Renee Falconetti) that draws the viewer in. This simple close-up of Falconetti's face is a window in to the soul of this martyred saint. We lucky viewers are not viewing a woman acting a part, but in truth, we are looking at Joan of Arc, standing up to her oppressors, coming to grips with her relationship with God in the face of wilting adversity, facing down the doubts that creep in when death looks you in the eye. It is as moving a performance by a female actor as I've ever seen, and she doesn't say a single word in the film that you can hear.

This is a great, albeit fucked up movie about what we do to protect the things we believe in. The final moments of the movie (spoiler: Joan of Arc died) as Joan is strapped to the stake and fire is burning away at her, and the soldiers are macing her followers and all hell is breaking lose is almost torturous to watch. Each shot of the film, especially in the ending is absolutely perfect in its framing and its symbolism. This is a film that could be made today for a handful of change stolen from a bum, but the major studios, and the dumbasses we call a public film audience would shit all over it. They'd call it too experimental, too strange, too slow and that's the sad fact of our artistically barren Hollywood machine.

My favorite story, before I go, about Carl Th. Dreyer and this production: Dreyer spent a million or so dollars (a historic amount for 1927) building a perfect recreation of the what he imagined 11th century rural France would look like But when the producers saw the first cut of the film they quickly realized that Dreyer had shot almost entirely in close-ups, barely focusing on this brilliant set they'd spent this gratuitous amount of money on. And Dreyer just didn't give a damn, he wanted to create an environment in which his actors would feel as if they were actually existing in the time period, regardless of what shots he decided to use in the final piece. And from what I can tell, it one hundred percent worked.

I'm waiting on a film from the library right now, so for the next few days I'll be catching up on television shows via the internet and just generally dicking around in terms of movies and such on this here blog. But don't fret, the Criterion Quest will continue.

Friday: Lord knows.

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