I remember feeling completely captivated and changed somehow when I first saw Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc.
It was at that time I procured a little antique Joan of Arc figurine, put her by my bedside, proclaimed her as one of my guardian angels.
Oddly enough, a portrait of Joan of Arc appeared suddenly in the window of a neighboring stranger’s house facing OUTWARD to my street, seemingly on purpose, so I felt her protection like destiny, inside and out.
I had never even heard of Vampyr until I met filmmaker Bill Domonkos and we were in the throes of creating The Fine Art of Poisoning. Bill wanted to show me one of his favorite films of all time.
We sat on velvet cushions in his strange ornate living room surrounded by taxidermied peacocks and mounted antlers– and I was again captivated and changed somehow by Dreyer’s fragile, floating, yet terrifying, dreamlike imagery.
I’d never seen Vampyr on the big screen. I was thrilled when legendary co-founder of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Steven Severin invited me to perform a dark piano set to conjure the otherworldly mood, and introduce his new live film score.
Jill Tracy and Steven Severin post-Vampyr at the Roxie Theater (photo: Nora Vitaliani)
I’d met Steven a couple of years ago at one of his film score performances here in San Francisco, and was pleasantly shocked that he not only recognized me in the crowd, but was a fan of my work! We’ve kept in touch and have discussed ways to collaborate.
It’s such a gratifying feeling when artists who’ve inspired me growing up respect and appreciate my work. Siouxsie and the Banshees helped mold me into who I am today. (Steven also was the other half of The Glove with Robert Smith!) What a joy to share the stage and many stories with him!
In a now dreary industry where true art is no longer valued, it means the world to me to build bridges with kindred spirits and keep our visions alive. it’s necessary now more than ever.
I talk more about this in a great interview with FEARnet’s Gregory Burkart HERE.
Steven Severin onstage performing Vampyr (photo: Roxie Theater)
I was also thrilled at the idea of simply performing solo at the piano, 30-40 minutes of nonstop improvisation. Channeling the energy of the crowd, the room and a mood befit to the allure and mystique of Vampyr. No preparation, no songs, just pure emotion, intuited, a singular archive of time. It was enchanting. Many in the audience later said they could have listened to me play like that for hours.
Vampyr (1932) was shot on location, as Dreyer believed it would be beneficial by lending the dream-like ghost world of the film and not have to mimic it on set. This washed out look was an effect Dreyer desired, and he had cinematogapher Rudolph Maté shoot the film through a piece of gauze held three feet (.9 m) away from the camera.
I told Steven I thought his score allowed a perfect soundscape juxtaposed to the ethereal weightlessness of the film. He retained a very atmosphereic drone, but acknowlged the intensity and emotional cues, just enough to lead you there, without overtaking them. He seamlessly stayed out of the way of the film, and enabled the visuals even more of a stunning impact.
After the screenings, a pleasure to find some fellow artists in the audience: filmmaker Bill Domonkos, David J (Bauhaus/Love and Rockets), photographer Jeremy Brooks and others. The notorious local movie writer Jason was in the front row. you can read his review of the night HERE.