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A neglected gem from 1928
An impressive film, but obviously it was cursed from the beginning: it was planned(1927) as a rival production of Dreyer's masterpiece, but due to delays and to the fact that such a shooting could only take a huge amount of time and money, allowing many of its stars(Philippe Hériat or Gaston Modot, for instance) to fool around with other productions in between takes and shooting days, it was only released after the Passion, in late 1928. The result is of course that not only Dreyer's film was chronologically first, but today it is also generally regarded as the best of both Joan Of Arc movies from late 20s France. De Gastyne's film also suffered from the crisis in the French Cinema of the late twenties, in France,which would prove problematic for Feyder, Gance, Renoir, L'Herbier, and even Dreyer's Joan! This epic, however, is a surprise; Simone Genevois is not Falconetti, but she brings to the role the necessary kindness and the soft determination of young Joan. The settings and the general historical feeling are quite convincing as well, and this is in large part due to the skill of the actors. Like Fairbanks or Chaney, Modot, Hériat have faces and bodies that make them look good in a borrowed costume; they look authentic, and the same could be said about the settings, never expressionistic or suggested, on the contrary of Dreyer's film, they contribute to giving a nice period feel. The restoration, by Renée Lichtig, was made from various prints, including 9.5mm material, that could have been provided by Kevin Brownlow; given that the latter has always been rather enthusiastic about the film, I think he would certainly have agreed to contribute on such a project. To conclude, this film is highly recommended... if you can track it!
- Dec 17, 2005
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