Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Liv Ullmann, Jeremy Kemp, Natasa Nicolescu, Sharon Winter, Margareta Pogonat
Director: Michael Anderson
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
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Interesting film; poor DVD quality
Allen Eaton | Longmont, CO USA | 10/30/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I have just rented this title from Neflix. The storyline they advertise is that of a 20th Century woman who feels that she resembles the legendary Pope Joan of the 9th Century. Through a visit to a psycharist, she manages to time-travel to Joan's world.
The actual movie, however, has nothing to do with the 20th century. No visit to a psycharist, no time-travel in her mind. This is a costume drama, a straight-forward bio pic of a woman who pretended to be a man (in order to save her life in those savage times) and was elected Pope (a story vigoriously denied by the Catholic Church).
While supporting actors Maximillian Schell (as a monk/painter), Franco Nero (as the Emperor) and Trevor Howard (as an aging pope) turn in convincing performances, it is Liv Ullman who steals the show (she is in practically every scene). Her face is the perfect actor's mask. Her transformation into Father John is so convincing that I found myself saying that, if I had just met him, either as priest or Pontiff, I'd believe she was a man. The actress does this entirely with her face, the mark of a true creative artist.
The set and costume designs easily transport you back in time. Maurice Jarre's music score is lovely, although it often tends to dominate rather than support the action. This is also a European production, so that the editing seems jarring at times, as if you are getting a cut-down version for international distribution. Also the sound has a thin, hallow quality, not well balanced as in Hollywood productions. This can also be digitally corrected (enhanced) for today's DVDs.
Unfortunately, all the efforts of the filmmakers are undercut by the horrific film/negative elements used in the DVD transfer. This looks like an old print that was found in someone's basement where the reels had moulded for years. There is a snow-storm of negative dirt floating across the screen, plus terrible negative scratches that frequently blemish the actor's faces. There are numerous rips/tears in the element and were poorly taped back together. It is a shame that nobody tried to digitally correct this problem.. And there is absolutely no attempt at color correction.
DVD was supposed to usher in a new digital age were studios protected their investments by finding and restoring their original elements. Instead, like the old, cheap video tapes of the recent past, some distributors are treating the DVD format as just another cheap way of getting people to part with their money. It has become a "buyer beware" situation. It often seems that more care is lavished on the box cover art than on the actual film transfer.
Film is an art form. So is it's presentation. Somebody needs to remind copyright, distributors of this simple fact. As in the theatrical exhibition of any film, the multi-millions of dollars lavished on a production can be undone by a single projectionist who lets the film go out of focus, or who doesn't clean the projector gate and allows a deep scratch to appear.
Please Restore and Bring Back This Trash Classic!
the masked reviewer | Boston, MA | 10/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many are called. Few are chosen. You've probably heard that message before, but the way it's imparted in the 1972 gem POPE JOAN, it's not about the few souls called to true Christian salvation, it's about the few foreign actresses -- those Danish pastries and Roma tomatoes -- who've ever come within emoting distance of being the "new" Greta Garbo or the "next" Ingrid Bergman. One of the least likely crossover wannabes of all time was Norwegian dish Liv Ullmann, who, after a string of fine performances for Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, flew her Scandinavian coop to demonstrate that, in English, she couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. Intent on displaying a broad range of mediocrity, Ullmann failed at comedies (40 CARATS), musicals (LOST HORIZON), royal epics (THE ABDICATION), war flicks (A BRIDGE TOO FAR), Westerns (ZANDY'S BRIDE) and action movies (COLD SWEAT) -- there was nothing she could not not do. But POPE JOAN ranks as our absolute favorite Liv-And-Let-Liv trash classic.
We first see Ullmann done up in hideous Pippi Longstocking pigtails, presumably the look du jour for ninth-century teen messengers of God. When both her parents die, orphaned Ullmann announces her intention to go to a nunnery. Her father's randy monk pals won't hear of it, however. As one of them puts it, "You weren't meant for a nunnery, Joan!" And to prove the point, they all gang-rape her. In a response that would suggest she has more than a passing fancy for medieval religious practice, Ullmann LIKES IT.
Sticking with her plan, Ullmann enters the convent Our Lady of Deceptively Meek Overactors. Things heat up quickly when the emperor Charlemagne stops by one night for dinner, bringing along his grandson, Franco Nero. Nero instantly lusts after Sister Liv, but still unfamiliar with how the church hierarchy operates, she refuses him. She does, however, watch Nero have sex with Sister Lesley-Anne Down, after which she hurries off to her room to masturbate.
Ullmann's next religious experience occurs when the convent is deemed in need of redecorating -- it's SO eighth century -- and the emperor sends over painter Maximilian Schell, a studmonk of the first order. "Why are you a monk?" Ullmann asks, to which he responds leeringly, "It's the only way I could get myself into a nunnery." Sister Liv sees the light and succumbs to this inspired member of the clergy. "Do you think it surprises our Maker that we have sinned?" Brother Schell asks rhetorically afterward. "It's the only thing that separates us from the angels."
While Sister Liv is still, no doubt, digesting that bit of theological wisdom, the emperor dies, prompting barbarian Saxons to rape the nuns. Schell spirits Ullmann away and, in the interests of her future safety, gives her a boyish haircut and a new identity -- Friar John. Her butch makeover wins Ullmann twice as much attention as she got before -- FROM MEN. Soon-to-be-emperor Nero, for example, likes the looks of this "lad" so much he ordains him/her a priest.
Pope Trevor Howard is attracted too, and anoints him/her a cardinal. When Cardinal Ullmann calls on the Pope in his spa and finds His Holiness wearing nothing but a towel, the Holy Father vamps, "You look splendid," before plunging buck-naked into the pool, shouting, "Shed those magic robes!" Ullmann demurs, but the Pope carries a torch for his special servant of God right to his own deathbed, on which, eyeing Ullmann-in-drag hungrily, he designates him/her as the next Pope.
When Schell sees Pope Ullmann in full papal drag, he's moved to hit on him/her all over again (is this what's meant by catholic tastes?). Schell's charms don't work, because Nero is on the scene ready to be made emperor. After Ullmann crowns him, he recognizes her and says, "Odd if the Pope should be a woman. There are those who would say it showed the hand of the Devil. I've always had a weakness for the Devil!" Soon the emperor and the Pope are going at it in an admirable display of harmony between church and state. But then Nero goes off to fight the Holy Wars, leaving the Pope to mope about the Vatican. Months go by until one day, Pope Liv, now mysteriously swathed in enough robes to outfit the entire Jesuit and Franciscan orders, walks out amid his/her faithful in celebration. It proves an untimely show of papal authority, for suddenly the Pope collapses on the cobblestones and GIVES BIRTH TO HIS/HER ILLEGITIMATE LOVE CHILD. Appalled at the enormous deception that has been perpetrated, the crowd tears Ullmann to pieces.
So did the critics."
A butchered film on a poor quality DVD
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 12/30/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"There may be a good movie somewhere in Pope Joan, but they certainly didn't find it in the cut 112-minute version that was shorn of some 22 minutes after its disastrous opening. This late entry in the medieval biopic stakes certainly attracted a fairly interesting if eclectic cast - Liv Ullman, Maximilian Schell, Trevor Howard, Franco Nero, Olivia De Havilland among them - to its tale of the woman who may have become Pope in the 9th Century before being torn to pieces by an angry mob when she gave birth during a Papal procession. John Briley's script isn't terrible but the original mixture of sporadic miscasting and ineffectual direction from the usually rather more capable Michael Anderson was probably enough to cripple the film long before the shears came out. The editing of the first half of the film is among the very worst I've ever seen, as if someone had run over the film with a lawnmower and put the few unshredded bits back together in a hurry in before anyone noticed, with Maurice Jarre's uninspired score often cutting off mid-note as a consequence to inadvertently mark the deletions. Joan herself seems virtually a piece of driftwood, moving to and fro as circumstances and the men around her decide, but there's little sense of her as a person or as a remarkable preacher, not helped by some very uncomfortable performances from the likes of Jeremy Kemp and Patrick Magee that tell you more about the actors' embarrassment on the set than the characters. Things pick up once Ullman reaches the Vatican and gets taken under pragmatic Pope Trevor Howard's wing, but it's hard to see just what the point of it all is, either as an examination of faith or feminism. As it stands, in the short version it's a hurried mess with a few moments of minor interest to offset the embarrassing ones, and the fact that this is clumsily panned-and-scanned from the original widescreen ratio only makes matters worse."