Joan of Arc is probably the most extraordinary character in French history.So introducing fantastic elements in the screenplay makes sense.There are so many mysterious things about the Maid of Orleans ,although,thanks to the manuscript of her trial,she 's the most known character of the Middle Ages.BUt this woman definitely eludes human
Otto Preminger did not commit sacrilege when he showed Joan reappearing one night in Charles the seventh's bedroom ,with other dramatis personae:bishop Cauchon,Dunois and the soldier who made a cross for the heroine with two pieces of wood just before she died."They cleared your name" the king says "Can you unburn me?" she says.Robert Shaw 's vision of Joan is not unlike that of Jean Anouilh in "l'alouette":Anouilh ended his play on a glorious note:he demolished the stake and he brought back Joan in Reims cathedral.
I sincerely believe that Otto Preminger's movie has been unfairly dismissed :in my native France,they say it's a static movie ,and however,I had never the impression to be watching a filmed stage production.To my mind ,it's the best Joan of Arc ,with the staggering exception of Dreyer's masterpiece ,of course,which will probably never surpassed.But all the others ,Bresson,Fleming,Rosselini,Besson (Besson???),Rivette ,et al,cannot hold a candle to Preminger:his Joan is a woman of flesh and blood and Jean Seberg (debut) had a strong presence .But the stand-out is definitely Richard Widmark :his fans won't recognize him,particularly in the sequences where he appears as the old king at the end of the road;but he gives a very fine portrayal of Charles the seventh ,probably outré -this king was finally a smart one :he knew when war had to give way to negotiation,which Joan could not understand.But watching Widmark the tough guy of many a western or a film noir playing hopscotch is just a joy.He easily outshines such luminaries as Jose Ferrer,in Fleming 's version or John Malkovich ,in Besson's video game.
There are funny anachronisms:"this horse cost 16 FRANCS" (the franc came much later);or Joan calling Gilles De Rais "Bluebeard" :Charles Perrault ,admittedly inspired by De Rais ,wrote his fairy tale more than two centuries later.But it's not a problem:Joan will come back after her death,and she will know the whole French history ,because ,unlike her contemporaries,she's eternal.The relationship Joan/Dunois is wonderfully treated :it's some kind of love story ,and seeing the young maid mother him brings something romantic .
One can regret a detail:it's not because she was afraid of prison for life that Joan was relapsed :it's because they took away from her her woman's clothes and thus forced her to dress up again as a man.It' minor ;Shaw's lines ,depicting these foolish things which Joan could not live without,if she were buried forever in a hole ,are deeply poetic.
I say it again:one of the best films about Joan Of Arc.
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