Now here’s some Friday news that gets me in a good mood. The man who brought us Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese, is producing a movie based on the autobiography of pianist Byron Janis. Okay, I know you’re saying, “who cares?” because you saw The Piano and at about the time you saw a buck naked Harvey Keitel, you had seen all you ever wanted to see about people tickling the ivories.
But what makes this one special is that Janis’ autobiography was titled Chopin and Beyond: My Extraordinary Life in Music and the Paranormal. Janis was an exceptional musician who was selected to perform in the Soviet Union in 1960 and brought cold Russian audiences to tears almost 25 years before Sylvester Stallone successfully ended the Cold War by defeating Ivan Drago. But not only that, he’s had lots of paranormal experiences.
His early playing career began with a strange attraction to Chopin (Polish Pride, where you at?!) and his music, but he even tells a great story of seeing Chopin’s death mask cry while he was having dinner with Uri Geller. Now that famous spoon bender always gets my Skeptic Spidey Sense going, but it was the 70s and Uri was ubiquitous on talkshows back then, so I can understand (hey, everybody likes hanging out with celebs!)
Anyway, Janis’ website even includes a recommended reading list for people that want to expand their knowledge on the subject, so you gotta hand it to the guy for his commitment to the strange and unknown. Much of his belief stems from his otherworldly connection with Chopin (everything from his aunt exclaiming that he looked just like the great pianist when he was born to discovering two unearthed pieces from the composer in 1967) and the connection that the Polish pianist often talked about “other worlds.” That’s not the only connection that Chopin made with a living person after his death, but we’ll have to save that for a special podcast episode!
Whether the movie focuses on the paranormal aspect of Janis’ career or just on the music, I’m looking forward to checking it out. Scorsese has hardly let me down (except Shutter Island, who didn’t see that ending coming from a thousand miles away? It was like a well-directed but generic Twilight Zone episode) and I’m excited to see what they have in store for us.