‘Most influential film of all time’ comes to Brattleboro
Renée Jeanne Falconetti portrays Joan of Arc is the French silent film, “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” which will be shown on Dec. 17 at Epsilon Spires in Brattleboro.

‘Most influential film of all time’ comes to Brattleboro

‘The Passion of Joan of Arc,’ a silent film classic with a live score by cellist Lori Goldston, comes to Epsilon Spires

BRATTLEBORO — On Friday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m., the multimedia arts venue Epsilon Spires will screen a touchstone of early cinema, Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), accompanied by a live score performed by cellist and composer Lori Goldston.

Goldston has worked with musicians such as Terry Riley (an avant-garde composer) and David Byrne (of Talking Heads), but she is most widely known for her performance with Nirvana on the band's 1993 episode of MTV Unplugged.

“Now it's become much more common but, at the time, it was extremely unusual to have a cello in a band like that,” Goldston told The Ringer in a 2018 oral history of the “Unplugged” performance. She adds that “it was also unusual for a string player to work without written parts, improvising around chord changes and having parts hummed.”

This ability to freely improvise in a live performance is incorporated into Goldston's score for The Passion of Joan of Arc, which also sources inspiration from medieval secular and liturgical music.

Dreyer never settled on a score that he deemed definitive, and over the nearly 100 years since the film's release, it has been scored dozens of times by classical and choral groups, as well as by popular musicians like Nick Cave and Cat Power.

Ranked “the most influential film of all time” at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, The Passion of Joan of Arc has been effusively praised by legendary film critics such as Pauline Kael, Paul Schrader, and Roger Ebert. It is most notable for the performance of Renée Jeanne Falconetti, who played Joan of Arc with such moving conviction that Kael proclaimed it “may be the finest performance ever recorded on film.”

Falconetti was an unknown Parisian stage actress when she was chosen for the role at age 35. Dreyer said that during her screen test, recorded without makeup at his insistence, her face came across as “very sincere, but also a woman of suffering.”

The Passion of Joan of Arc was the last film role Falconetti ever performed. In 1946, she died by suicide after fleeing France during World War II.

The film was heavily censored by the Catholic Church and French government upon its release, and the director's cut was lost in a fire in 1928. But in 1981, a print of the original edit was discovered in a closet at a psychiatric hospital and re-released to the public.

The film will screen at Epsilon Spires in Dreyer's intended form.

Tickets for the event are $18 at epsilonspires.org.

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