Jean-Francois Virey | 59500 DOUAI France | 09/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Seeing myself as a kind of Randian "romantic realist" as far as movies are concerned, I was initially reluctant to purchase a copy of Rivette's rather naturalistic "Joan the Maid", all the more so as I would not rank Sandrine Bonnaire among the prettier French actresses I know of, and I was a bit afraid of the director's potentially anti-Catholic approach, given his track record. However, watching the movie right after reading Regine Pernoud's well-documented 1986 biography of Jeanne, which served as one of the sources for the scenario, I was impressed by the writers and the director's concern with historical accuracy, within the limits, of course, of a minuscule budget rendering a realistic recreation of the battles impossible (do not expect to see more than a few dozen men at once on screen, if that.) The only blatant error I did notice based on my very meager but relatively fresh knowledge of Jeanne's life was that Rivette has her wear her battle armour during the coronation scene, while Pernoud suggests she was wearing rich women's clothes, about which the then archbishop of Chartres even said she had been a little vain (I missed the opportunity for characterization more than the dress, though.)
Bonnaire is perfect as Jeanne, wonderfully capturing her endearing sense of humour and her paradoxically no-nonsense approach to life, whether on Earth or in Heaven. Her self-effacing impersonation of the Maid (she is an actress, not a celebrity) makes her beautiful even if she is not. She actually feels like the person that transpires through the first-hand documents, unlike Besson's psychotic, comic-book top-model, or Lelee Sobieski's moody American teenager. Moreover, her surroundings actually look like France (because they are), unlike the Disneyland of the Duguay movie.
My only reservations are with the DVD edition of this film. First, it appears that we are not presented with a full-length version : "The Battles", which should be 160', is only 112' long, while "The Prisons" is 116' instead of 176, which means a total of 108 minutes are missing, the length of an ordinary movie (I know that more is not necessarily better, but given the rather undramatic construction of the film, it might well be in the present case.) Second, the edition is not enhanced for 16/9 screens, so that I actually had to reduce the size of the image to make it look less grainy. Third, the subtitles cannot be removed (which is frustrating if you understand French) and are not always reliable (I did not read them systematically, but I found quite a few egregious errors.) And finally, the supplements are virtually non-existent and the chronology of Jeanne's life contains a few errors of spelling ("Domrémy", her village, becomes a more musical "Dorémy" for instance.)
I would not recommend this movie to anybody with a teenage mentality, measuring the greatness of a movie in terms of the hormonal discharges it produces. I am afraid Joan the Maid is not the kind of stimulus that activates viewers' endocrine systems. People under thirty-five should therefore abstain. But if you really want to get a sense of the historical Jeanne, or Jehanne as she spelled it, and can survive 90 minutes without any battle in a movie called "The Battles", then this film is for you. Jeanne does not run on walls, make any fancy moves with her sword or even kill anyone (like the real Jeanne), but at least she lives. "
Her Straight Story
JHL | Brooklyn, NY United States | 11/18/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Joan the Maid is the clearest and least judgmental version available. It is also the least Hollywood version. The screenplay is a straighforward, chronological narrative, and Rivette gives us a series of tableaux along the lines of a medieval passion play. The abrupt blackouts are a little distracting, but the scenes themselves are beautifully played and shot. Joan is a challenge to any actress - the audience all have ideas about her already. Leelee Sobieski is the credible teenager; Ingrid Bergman the classic heroine. Sandrine Bonnaire's girlish behavior sometimes seems out of place - too casual for divine inspiration - but her very human reactions to events, particularly to her first battle, are moving. The simplicity with which she pleads her cause to Beaudricourt and later the Dauphin is also effective. The DVD includes a timeline and source material that are interesting and helpful. The subtitles are poorly written, giving "sow" for "sew", "spacious" for "specious", and sometimes rendering literal translations of idiomatic French expressions - a film so carefully made deserved better. That small problem aside, this is easily the best of the contemporary movies about Joan of Arc."
The best Joan for accuracy, consistency, and her final days
David Clapp | TN USA | 08/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Jeanne la Pucelle 1. Les Batailles[Joan the Maid: the Battles]" begins with Joan's efforts to obtain permission to see the Dauphin in Chinon and ends with his coronation. It starts off badly with an actress hamming it up as the Mother of Joan and telling what a perfect child she was. Most of the early scenes come directly from the rehabilitation hearings where she was portrayed as a faultless saint in keeping with the newly restored French government. Many of the actors in this beginning section seem to pose and speak directly to the camera rather than to each other like they were in a tableau or an elementary school Passion play. It may have been deliberate, but it didn't work for me. What did work was the great attention to detail and the settings. Jacques Rivette went out of his way to stay with documented facts and to take advantage of the true French landmarks and countryside. I loved the way he played each scene out regardless of what happened with the horses, props, or men, letting the accidents happen as part of the action. "Jeanne la Pucelle 2. Les prisons[Joan the Maid: the Prisons]" stayed with documented facts, using a fade-to-black after every scene, to give a flawless view of Joan and the people she encountered. Sandrine Bonnaire was outstanding in every respect. Her interpretation of Joan did honor to both the warrior saint and the human girl caught up in a tragedy. The prison and trial sequences worked in every respect because the director did not do more than let each character speak his or her mind. I especially loved the early prison sequences where Rivette contrasted the world of women with the world of men, again, giving each character a full and believable voice. It is the best historical treatment I have seen in a long time and by far the best Joan."
J.I. | Tokyo, Japan | 06/26/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Oops. This is short version (first showing in Japan, later complete version was released). Some cast deleted, but credit roll was listed. This version is nothing, sadly. French release complete version DVD never released in France (only 2 Video Box set, but not easy to get now). I hope Complete version will be release some day.... (that version is 5 stars, but short version is nothing...). "
The Natural Muse
Doug Anderson | Miami Beach, Florida United States | 02/16/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"What is striking about any Rivette film is the intimacy of his style. The way the film is cut emphasizes that we are just eavesdropping in on select scenes. And the scenes chosen say a lot about what Rivettes intentions are. He is less interested in scenes that tell us about history and more interested in scenes which tell us about character. The story is familiar to us all so that is a great advantage to him and allows him to forego the obvious scenes full of historical significance for the intimate telling ones. Rivette's Joan wins over anyone who comes in contact with her but the way Sandrine Bonnaire plays her its her warm and genuine nature that wins them over moreso than her "visions" and ideas of destiny. And this is the Joan that Rivette is interested in. What quality she has that no one else does is her naturalness and of course thats what Bonnaire too is known for, her earthy outdoor demeanor. Those who befriend Joan admire her convictions and her purity but more than anything they like her. And those figures of authority who feel threatened by her utter sincerity are those who are themselves lacking that quality. I think its impossible to say one portrayal of Joan of Arc is more accurate than another, there are just different interpretations of what this girl was like. Rivette purposely avoids creating yet another mythic version of her and chooses instead to show her as a person. Rivette shows that the men that fought beside her had great affection for her. Some of the men believed in her calling, some didn't, but they all admired her beauty and her bravery. She herself did not do much more than wave a banner but she proved to be just the right kind of muse--her simple earthy presence won the men over. I think this is an interesting take on the Joan of Arc character but more to the point what is most interesting is not the history telling be it accurate or not but Rivettes unique way of storytelling which emphasizes the incidental over the episodic. A more subtle form of revisionist history you will not find."