Eighty-six years after its creation, the silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc remains unique in international cinema.
The reasons for its exalted status will be obvious when The Passion of Joan of Arc screens Sunday, January 6, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch as part of the Movies That Matter film series.
Introductory and closing remarks are provided by Robert W. Butler, for more than 40 years film critic of The Kansas City Star and now a member of the Library's public affairs staff.
Carl Theodor Dreyer, a Dane, tells the story of France's great heroine almost entirely in closeups. He insisted that his actors wear no makeup so that every wrinkle and broken blood vessel could be captured by the camera. His fashioned his script from the official courtroom accounts of Joan's trial by the English for witchraft.
And he cast as his leading lady Renee Falconetti, an actress famous for her work in stage comedies. Here, though, Falconetti gives a wrenching, heartbreaking, and transcendent performance as the doomed future saint. Often the emotional pain on her features seems too much to bear, but the film has been so beautifully photographed that we are seduced nonetheless.
It was Falconetti's second and last appearance in a feature film. Some claim she found the experience so grueling that she never again submitted to it.
But she and Dreyer left behind a masterpiece, as was immediately acknowledged by the critics.
Raved the New York Times: "... as a film work of art this takes precedence over anything that has so far been produced. It makes worthy pictures of the past look like tinsel shams. It fills one with such intense admiration that other pictures appear but trivial in comparison."
In the Sight & Sound magazine's 2012 poll of critics, Joan of Arc was voted the ninth greatest film ever. And in the 2010 list of 100 essential films chosen by the Toronto International Film Festival, it was ranked as the most influential film of all time.
Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.
Other titles in the series:
January 13: My Darling Clementine (1946)
January 27: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
February 10: All About Eve (1950)
February 25: Dr. Strangelove (1964)
March 10: The Circus (1928)
March 24: Rear Window (1954)
April 7: Wings of Desire (1987)
April 21: Singin' in the Rain (1952)
May 5: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
May 19: Metropolis (1927)