It’s the final night of the week for BCB After Dark: the coolest spot on the internet club circuit for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. I hope you’ve had a pleasant week so far and that you’re enjoying the presents the Cubs have given you. Please come on in for a drink. Bring your own beverage. Relax and grab a table near the stage. The waitstaff will check on you shortly. Relax and chill out for the night.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Last night I asked you if you thought the Cubs would order “domestic or an import,” meaning if you thought the Cubs would sign either free agents Seiya Suzuki or Kyle Schwarber. By Wednesday morning the answer became clear as the Cubs signed Suzuki and Schwarber signed with the Phillies. I closed the poll shortly after it was announced that Schwarber was signing with the Phils, but before I closed it, 31 percent of you thought that the Cubs would sign Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki. Twenty percent thought that just Schwarber would be returning to the North Side and another 20 percent picked both of them to be Cubs in 2022. So 51 percent of you were correct in thinking that Suzuki would be the newest Cub.
Of course, I left Suzuki off my list of possible Cubs free agent signings in our first post-lockout edition of After Dark because I didn’t think there was any chance that he’d sign here. I’m not going to let me forget that. In my defense, all the pre-lockout talk was that the Giants and Mariners were the two big favorites for the NPB star. To me, the few mentions of the Cubs seemed to be in the category of some agent trying to throw the Cubs into the mix in an attempt to raise the bidding. I was wrong and I admit it. I should have realized that Suzuki shares an agent with Yu Darvish and that might give the Cubs an edge.
Here’s the place where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the end if you want. You won’t hurt my feelings.
At 82 years young, pianist Bob James has a new album out this year and last month he released a really high-quality video of the first song on that album, a new version of the song James is most famous for among the general public. That song is “Angela,” or as it is better known, the theme from “Taxi.”
So here’s something that jazz fans and fans of classic television can both enjoy. This features James on keyboards, Billy Kilson on drums and Michael Palazzolo on bass.
Tonight I wanted to continue discussion of director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc that I started earlier this week. You should go back and read that if you haven’t already and want to get some of the background and my initial thoughts. I re-watched the film this week (because the film really does invite repeated viewings) and I did watch the Viggo Mortensen video recommended to me in the comments. Mortensen made it clear that this film is his favorite film of all time and it’s not hard to see why an actor who really cares about his craft would be drawn to this picture. The performance of actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti as Joan is that good. Many have called it the greatest on-screen performance of all-time.
Not a lot is known about Falconetti. We really aren’t sure what her name was other than Falconetti. She was credited as Renée, Marie, Maria and Jeanne (and combinations thereof) throughout her career, but mostly she just went by Mademoiselle Falconetti.
Although there have been many stories about where she was born, scholars are pretty sure that she was born in the suburbs around Paris in 1892. She was a fairly well-regarded actress on the Paris stage in the first part of the 20th Century, mostly doing light comedy. You’ll see some reports that The Passion was the only film she ever made, but scholars have uncovered at least one other film that she made about ten years earlier. But she definitely never made another film after this one and she was fairly puzzled by the reaction to her performance.
When Dreyer announced that he was going to make a picture about Joan of Arc, it was quite controversial in France. Many thought that it was blasphemy for a Danish (and non-Catholic) director to make a movie about a woman that had come to represent the spirit of France. On top of that, there were many rumors that American star Lillian Gish would play Joan, and Dreyer apparently at least considered it. But he saw a performance of Falconetti on stage in Paris and even though it was a light comedy, Dreyer saw something in her performance and her face that convinced him that she was perfect to play Joan, even though she was 35 years old and Joan was 19 during her trial. As Viggo Mortensen said, it’s pretty amazing how some directors have the eye to see things like that.
As I wrote last time, the entire film has to be carried on Falconetti’s face. Almost all of the film consists of quick cuts of close-ups with some medium shots thrown in. Without any spoken words and with the rest of her body only on-screen sometimes, Falconetti had to convey almost everything with her face.
Dreyer wasn’t really interested in Joan as a historical figure or as a symbol of France. What he was interested in was portraying Joan as a defender of truth (or faith) against the hypocrisy of those in power who cannot allow the truth to be heard. It’s a very personal movie, which is emphasized by the narrow focus of the camera shots.
And boy, does Falconetti put on a show. She portrays Joan in so many different ways. She’s scared in one shot and then in the next shot, her eyes will bug out with righteous truth. She show awe when she thinks of God. Her eyes plead with the jailers when she asks to listen to Holy Communion. Falconetti shows satisfaction when she frustrates the judges with her clever answers. There’s terror in her eyes at the sight of the instruments of torture, which leads to her fainting, but that terror turns to defiance when she awakens. When the illiterate Joan realizes that she signed a confession, which she quickly recants, Falconetti has to show the panic in her face that she may have betrayed God to save her life. The one time in the entire movie that Falconetti has to portray Joan as unsure of herself is when the jailers ask her how old she is. It’s a powerful performance.
The title really serves as a pun, whether intentional or not. The word “passion” certainly references a Passion Play, as Joan is being martyred her like Christ. But it also can be read as referring to emotion, and this film is about nothing if not the emotions that Joan is going through.
As you can probably tell, Falconetti’s performance is an actor’s instructional notebook. The rapid cuts from her face, to the judges faces, and then back again is most of the film. Dreyer had the actors wear no makeup because he wanted the authenticity of their actual faces. He shot Joan in soft lighting which made her face look younger and more attractive. The judges were shot in harsh light that caused every pore and bump to stick out. They look uglier and more menacing. Dreyer also dug trenches on the sets so he could put the camera crew down low so that he could shoot the judges from the low angle looking up like he wanted. (The crew did not like this.)
There are lots of reports that Dreyer tried to use an early version of method acting to try to get the performances out of Falconetti that the wanted. He did make her do take after take until he got what he was looking for. Some have claimed that Dreyer went so far as to make Falconetti kneel for hours on end so she could feel the suffering of Joan, but some recent scholars have cast doubt on some of those stories. But there is no doubt that Falconetti really did not want to have her hair cut off and had hoped to talk Dreyer out of that scene before it was shot. So her tears and suffering in that scene are no doubt real.
Dreyer dispenses with the standard establishing shots for a scene, so the audience mostly has no frame of reference to know where the close-ups are coming from. The result is disorienting for the viewer and it asks us to feel a little bit of what Joan was going through.
The Passion of Joan of Arc also has a pretty interesting history. The film debuted in Copenhagen in April of 1928, but the Paris premiere was delayed for months by public protests. The Church and government authorities also demanded cuts to the film so as to not portray the Church is such a harsh and negative light.
Later in 1928, the negative of the original director’s cut of the film went up in a fire. (Film stock was really flammable back then.) Dreyer then recreated the film using unused, alternate takes, but that copy also went up in flames a few years later. The original version of the film was considered lost until 1981 when an intact copy was discovered, believe it or not, in a mental institution in Oslo. (The director of the hospital was apparently a friend of Dreyer and a film buff. It appears to have been for his personal collection.) Obviously, the reputation of the film has grown tremendously over the past 40 years now that the original version has been restored and is available for viewing in many different formats and with many different soundtracks.
The Passion of Joan of Arc is a real actor’s film. Even though it wasn’t (a very expensive set was constructed), it almost looks low-budget because of how minimalist Dreyer shot the picture. That decision keeps our attention on Falconetti as there’s nothing to really distract our eye.
This film is a trip. Coming at the very end of the silent era, Dreyer really plays with the visual language of film in ways that can be disorienting. It’s certainly worth taking 82 minutes to check out and see what all your favorite actors and directors admire about it.
You can go back to Monday night/Tuesday morning’s edition to see a clip, but if you don’t believe me, here’s New York Times critic A.O. Scott telling you why you should watch The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
From the looks of it, pretty much everyone around here is happy with Seiya Suzuki in Cubbie blue. He’s not going to replace those whom we lost in our hearts, at least not until the Cubs win another World Series with him in the outfield. But he certainly does make the immediate future seem brighter.
So I thought tonight we’d talk about those who have moved on. WIth Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber signing free agent deals on Wednesday, the four big heroes of 2016 who were free agents this winter all have new deals. So tonight I’m going to ask you, who did the best for themselves?
Just to remind you, here are the players and the deals they signed.
Javier Báez: Six years, $140 million with the Tigers. Opt out after two seasons.
Anthony Rizzo: Two years, $32 million with the Yankees. Opt out after one season.
Kyle Schwarber: Four years, $79 million with the Phillies.
Kris Bryant: Seven years, $182 million with the Rockies. Full no-trade clause.
I’m not going do define “best” for you. It’s up to you to decide which of these four heroes did the best for himself under the circumstances. You can say who got to the best team, the most money, the most money over what he could be expected to earn or even who is in the best city or with the best teammates. It’s your call.
Obviously we all wish all of the players the best, except when they’re playing the Cubs. So which one of them did the best in free agency, according to you?
Which Cub legend did the best in free agency?
This poll is closed
Thank you again so much for stopping by. I hope you encourage your friends to come by next week. Drive home safely. Tip the waitstaff. Don’t stay up too too late. And join us again next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.