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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Mankind has always interfered in the individual's right to have a one on one relationship with God in a way which they do not understand. George Bernard Shaw's play asks the question whether or not organized religion has the right to call someone a heretic because they have been given the gift of hearing God's voice and trying to spread their message in a way which the church doesn't approve. Like "The Song of Bernadette" and "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima", it is a woman who is the vessel of God's word, a taboo back in the day, especially in Joan of Arc's era. The fact that she dresses in man's clothes also makes her a target, especially when she goes into battle wearing a suit of armor and carrying a sword.

    This is a difficult film to assess, and even more difficult to get into, but once the message does get through and you accept Jean Seberg in the part (which many believe she was miscast in), the film will grab your soul and you will feel the emotional pain Joan must have felt as she realizes what denying her quest means in her spiritual journey. Seberg's Joan is much more waif like than Ingrid Bergman's was, and she seems more age appropriate. Of course, there are those who are going to use her lack of acting experience against her, even though her vulnerability does shine through amongst the more experienced actors. The fact that she does appear to be an emotionally fragile 19 year old works totally for her as she must face the variety of zealots and chauvinistic men who hold her future in their hands. It certainly was daring of director Otto Preminger to cast her, and in various aspects of her performance, it is a wise choice rather to have cast someone more well known like Natalie Wood.

    On the other hand, the presence of such veteran actors as Richard Widmark, Felix Aylmer, John Gielgud and Anton Walbrook add authority as the men, so her almost emotionless performance becomes more profound as their judgments against her get more and more authoritarian. This is a film which builds emotionally as her fate becomes more sealed, filmed sort of like Orson Welles' "MacBeth" and Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" in a dark, dream-like state that is half dream, half nightmare. The minutes leading up to her execution are profoundly intense, and the burning itself is almost unbearable.

    Told as if a ghostly visit after her demise, "Saint Joan" is perhaps not the definitive film version of Shaw's classic play, but for what Preminger did, it deserves to be noticed more than the mediocre reviews it initially received. Pretty much every character is given a chance to identify the fact that they are aware that if they are revealed to have been wrong about her, they know they are damned, and yet Joan's ghostly return offers a chance of atonement for some, damnation for others. At any rate, it is one of those spiritual dramas which deserves to open discussion on many fronts, especially with the idea that God speaks to everybody in different ways, that God does show many faces, and that as human beings with weaknesses, strengths, vulnerabilities and passions, we can never understand why God chooses to deal with humanity the way he does.
  • 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.
  • Most of the comments made on this film suggest that the writers have neither read nor seen the George Bernard Shaw play on which it is based. Shaw in "St. Joan," as in every single one of his plays, is all about talk. It's impossible to make an action movie out of a Shaw play without doing it irremediable violence. "St. Joan" is a play about Nationalism and Protestantism, ideas that did not even exist in the period when the play is set. Shaw's St. Joan IS a French nationalist, which is what makes her an anathema to the British. Shaw's St. Joan IS a Protestant, inspired directly by the spirit of God, un-mediated by the Church, and that is why she is an anathema to the Catholic authorities. Preminger's "St. Joan" is an adaptation of the play and, because the play (in important respects) utterly defies film conventions, the movie is mediocre. Anyone who wants to understand "St. Joan" as Shaw conceived her needs either to read or see the play, preferably both. Unfortunately, "St. Joan" is rarely performed these days, partly because Shaw has fallen out of fashion but also because it takes an extraordinary young actress to perform convincingly as Shaw's Maid, a warrior child whose voices speak common sense to her, , and there aren't too many of those around. If a director wishes to make another FILM about Jean d'Arc, as someone, somewhere, some time will undoubtedly want to do, Shaw's play is not the place to look. It belongs to the stage or the page, not the movies.
  • Preminger's adaptation of G. B. Shaw's ''Saint Joan''(screenplay by Graham Greene) received one of the worst critical reactions in it's day. It was vilified by the pseudo-elite, the purists and the audiences was unresponsive to a film that lacked the piety and glamour expected of a historical pageant. As in ''Peeping Tom'', the reaction was malicious and unjustified. Preminger's adaptation of Shaw's intellectual exploration of the effects and actions surrounding Joan of Arc(her actual name in her own language is Jeanne d'Arc but this film is in English) is totally faithful to the spirit of the original play, not only on the literal emotional level but formally too. His film is a Brechtian examination of the functioning of institutions, the division within and without of various factions all wanting to seize power. As such we are not allowed to identify on an emotional level with any of the characters, including Joan herself.

    As played by Jean Seberg(whose subsequent life offers a eerie parallel to her role here), she is presented as an innocent, a figure of purity whose very actions and presence reveals the corruption and emptiness in everyone. As such Seberg plays her as both Saint and Madwoman. Her own lack of experience as an actress when she made this film(which does show up in spots) conveys the freshness and youth of Jeanne revealing both the fact that Jeanne la Pucelle is a humble illiterate peasant girl who strode out to protect her village and her natural intelligence. By no means did she deserve the harsh criticism that she got on the film's first release, it's a performance far beyond the ken and call of any first-time actress with no prior acting experience. Shaw and Preminger took a secular view towards Joan seeing her as a medieval era feminist, not content with being a rustic daughter who's fate is to be married away or a whore picked up by soldiers to and away from battlefields. Her faith, her voices, her visions which she intermingles with words such as "imagination" and "common sense" leads her to wear the armour of her fellow soldiers to lead them to battle to chase the invading Englishman out of France.

    And yet it can be said that the film is more interested in the court of the Dauphin(Richard Widmark), the office of the clergy who try Joan led by Pierre Cauchon(Anton Walbrook, impeccably cast) and the actions of the Earl of Warwick(John Gielgud) then in Joan herself. The superb ensemble cast(all male) portray figures of scheming, Machievellian(although the story precedes Niccolo) opportunists who treat religion as a childish toy to be used and manipulated for their own ends. The sharp sardonic dialogue gives the actors great fun to let loose. John Gielgud as the eminently rational Earl whose intelligence,(albeit accompanied by corruption), allows him to calculate the precise manner in which he can ensure Joan gets burnt at the stake and Anton Walbrook's Pierre Cauchon brings a three dimensional portrait to this intelligent theologian who will give Joan the fair trial that will certainly find her guilty. Richard Widmark as the Dauphin is a real revelation. As against-type a casting choice you'll ever find, Widmark portrays the weak future ruler of France in a frenzied, comic caricature that's as close as this film comes to comic relief. A comic performance that feels like an imitation of Jerry Lewis far more than an impetuous future ruler of France.

    Preminger shot ''Saint Joan'' in black and white, the cinematographer is Georges Perinal who worked with Rene Clair and who did ''The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp'' in colour. It's perfectly restrained to emphasize the rational intellectual atmosphere for this film. Preminger's preference for tracking shots of long uninterrupted takes is key to the effectiveness of the film, there's no sense of a wasted movement anywhere in his mise-en-scene.

    It also marks the direction of Preminger's most mature(and most neglected period) his focus is on the conflict between individuals and the institutions in which they work, how the institution function and how the individual acts as per his principles. These themes get their most direct treatment in his film and as always he keeps things unpredictable and finds no black and white answers. This is one of his very best and most effective films.
  • bkoganbing12 December 2005
    The Joan of Arc story is always a hard one to deal with, especially for skeptics. Did she really hear voices, divinely inspired, that put the burden of liberating France on her 17 year old shoulders? Or should she have been locked in a loony bin?

    I'm not really sure that any other culture than the French ought to be telling her story, inevitably the interpretation will fall short of the mark. It falls short here because we have two diametrically opposed viewpoints working on the treatment.

    The key to this film is that it is adapted from a play by George Bernard Shaw by Graham Greene. So we have the writing of a Fabian Socialist being interpreted by one very Catholic writer. I think there's a great deal more Greene than Shaw.

    Shaw gets his innings here, but I think Graham Greene dominates the film. If he had lived I'm sure Shaw would not have approved.

    Charles VIII in history or as portrayed by Richard Widmark here or Jose Ferrer in the Ingrid Bergman film about Joan of Arc, is not the noblest of monarchs. If you are a good Catholic, what he did was going against the will of the Deity. Otherwise though what he tries to do in consolidating his gains makes perfect good sense.

    It's funny that I did a review of Olivier's Henry V which viewed from the English point of view which shows how the French got in the situation they were in. What happens afterwards is that Henry V dies quite suddenly like Alexander the Great and England with an infant monarch and fifty year plus struggle for power implodes internally.

    Before he died however Charles VII disowned his son the Dauphin and blessed the marriage of Henry V to his daughter Katherine with the provision that Henry succeed Charles VII as King. The French for good reason do not list the English Henry as one of their kings.

    Enter Joan of Arc whose visions inspire an army and a nation. As played by Jean Seberg she's in the right age group to be sure. But I think Ingrid Bergman being the far more skilled professional carries it off better in her film. Ditto for Jose Ferrer instead of Richard Widmark. The best acted parts in this film are Anton Walbrook as Cauchon the Bishop who presided over the trial and the clever and serpentine John Gielgud as the Earl of Warwick.

    Maybe if Otto Preminger had chosen to film pure Shaw, Saint Joan would have been better received.
  • Otto Preminger's much-maligned version of Joan of Arc's inquisition and defeat came under critical scrutiny for, among many things, the casting of an unknown in the demanding leading role. Jean Seberg was touted as Preminger's discovery, and her youthful energy and doe-eyed rebelliousness are the right ingredients for the Maid of Orleans. What Seberg lacks is forceful projection--though, with so much talent surrounding her, one hardly notices. After promoting the foppish Dauphin as the next King of France, a simple but fierce country girl heads the French Army into battle against England; sadly, with her triumphs passed her and her usefulness run dry, she was turned over to the courts where she was declared a heretic, her talk of voices the ramblings of a demonic influence. Graham Greene adapted George Bernard Shaw's celebrated play, putting much of the emphasis on Joan's trial; still, one clearly senses Preminger's pithy hand in the playful framework complete with ghosts and a music-box score. The costumes are plushy, the sets passable, yet one longs for more involving action (there's the set-up for battle, but no fighting); without a grander design, a more florid visual scope, what we're left with is textbook history. Certainly the performances make the film worth-seeing, and Seberg shouldn't be counted out in this regard. Hers is an empathic reading and, while she isn't yet a riveting presence, the newcomer manages a connection with the material (translating it to the viewer) which many seasoned pros might have found unmanageable. **1/2 from ****
  • Savaged when it came out, this film now looks handsome and sounds great. A feast of intelligent thoughtful acting, from Gielgud, Kenneth Haigh, Harry Andrews and especially Anton Walbrook,and a moving central performance from the beautiful and incredibly young Jean Seberg. Preminger doesn't jump around and show off- his long slow takes encourage you to listen and reflect, and Graham Greene's script condenses Shaw without sacrificing complexity.The piece has the look of a made for TV movie, and is certainly studio bound but none the worse for that. Too many contemporary movies on 'historical' themes cannot resist dumbing down. What would Mel Gibson have made of the Maid? Many drooling shots of her on the rack probably, then crisping up on the BBQ as the flames take hold. Preminger does none of this. The burning is shown mainly through a guilt-stricken reaction. There are a few weak performances, but not enough to cause any serious damage. I caught this movie on TV and was not expecting to watch it through, but I was gripped . In our age of religious fundamentalism and sacrifice, Joan's story has unexpected resonance.
  • Graham Greene wrote this movie version of George Bernard Shaw's play for the screen. Nineteen-year-old Jean Seberg made her movie debut here in the title role. She is engaging as the young Maid of Orleans who dresses as a boy and wants to be taken seriously as a soldier who hears voices from the saints in heaven. While watching this movie, it's important to remember that the characterization of Joan of Arc varies widely from the crazy Joan Pucelle, as characterized in Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part I, to a total otherworldly religious victim as seen in Carl Theodor Dreyer's silent classic, La Passion et la Mort de Jeanne d'Arc.

    Shaw wanted to present his Joan differently and this movie is about Shaw's Joan. Preminger and Greene present a noble effort of Shaw's play. It is entertaining in that it tells a good story without over romanticizing Joan nor over vilifying her chief executioner, Cauchon (Anton Walbrook). Dunois, Bastard of Orleans (Richard Todd) supports Joan's efforts and serves as her fellow soldier-in-arms. Richard Widmark--as the Dauphin that Joan makes Charles VII--plays his role as a childish clown. Finally, (Sir) John Gielgud admirably presents the English side of this story as he portrays Warwick. This movie is quite worth while--especially for Shaw fans.
  • This is an under-rated version of the story of the farm girl who fought the British and helped kick them out of France. Seberg is nowhere near as bad in this movie as reputation would suggest (and looks great with a way cool cropped hair-do), and there are good performances from Geilgud, Richard Widmark, and Richard Todd. It does have to be said, though, that this is not a movie for action-lovers - the centrepiece of Joan leading the troops in the liberation of Orleans, for example, is replaced by a fade-to-black! The movie is also quite stagey and it is stylistically easy to think it was made at least ten years earlier than it's 1957 release date. The movie makes a nice change if you are fed up with the Ingrid Bergman version, though.
  • Having seen the Peter O'Toole version recently, I was ready to be awed by the smart writing in this version. Little time is spent on the fighting, which I prefer. Instead, we are shown all the many motives underlying both the French and English (who held Normandy) politicos and priests who put her to death. Even the worst hypocrite of them all, the archbishop, leaves us with the thought that "Of course, she was innocent. The innocent have always had to suffer for the ambitions of the mighty. She had no idea what she was saying, no idea of the implications of blasphemy or going against the church. Unschooled, she had no idea of what the church's stand on such matters even was."

    Preminger was true to the myths surrounding her death, and I appreciated the preview on the tape that showed the flames reaching up and burning her. Why? They used gas jets in the movie, and 2 of them were stopped up. Suddenly, the air pressure blew out the stoppage and the flames leaped up right on her. Thankfully for her, they didn't have to repeat the shot as it was SO realistic: she WAS being burned!! Pretty traumatic introduction for an Iowa girl to her new career of acting.

    John Gielgud performed outstandingly. He is the English politico who is orchestrating the show. He also makes the point that once you condemn someone to death, you don't want to be around to watch them die. You might shrink from your 'duty' the next time...not that such delicacies bother the soul of our would-be president. We Christians, even the most anti-Semitic have no problem with falling back on the Old Testament when it comes to capital punishment, even though it was overridden by Jesus' words. Bring on public executions like this little girl's. Smelling burnt flesh might bring us respectable folks to our souls' senses.

    The only little 'pick' I have about this film is that we are not shown why the priest who has been so adamantly urging her burning becomes so suddenly so contrite, even to the point of madness. There should have been more expansion of his character, more dialogue--as the sudden 'coming to his senses' doesn't make sense.

    And, whether Graham Greene does this deliberately or not, St. Joan is such a self-assured little upstart, you almost but not quite, are glad she meets her come-uppance. And, when she turned down life in prison, for some reason I thought of Anne Sexton, the poet who accused Sylvia Plath of 'stealing her death' when she committed suicide ...knowing such an action guarantees immortality. You gotta wonder!!

    If ever there was a good example of obsessive thought and logic-tight compartments, this is one. St. Joan should have turned Buddhist and quieted the 'voices in her mind'.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    She has been remembered in history as the peasant girl who was accused of heresy for hearing voices telling her to drive the English out of France, during part of a time in what would be remembered as the Hundred Years' War. But to a lesser extent, she would be remembered for eventually having her name cleared and be made a saint in 1920.

    It is the story which began in 1456, 25 years after the trial of Joan of Arc with the aging King Charles VII (Richard Widmark) searching around the palace for his subjects, before the ghost of Joan (Jean Seberg) appears in front of him. He would recall how she entered his life as a 17-year-old peasant girl arriving at the palace when he was still a Dauphin in Chinon but still being constantly bullied by others, telling him she had heard the voices of Saints Catherine and Margaret who told her to lead the army against the English at Orleans. But before Joan found her way to the palace in a soldier's armour, she managed to convince the local squire Captain Robert de Baudricourt (Archie Duncan), who initially had his doubts over Joan, to let her lead an army.

    Among those who helped out in Joan's quest is Jean de Dunios, Bastard of Orleans (Richard Todd), or whom she always calls him Jack. It turns out despite after Charles had been crowned king, what Joan has done has earned her enemies in high places, even as she became popular with the masses, grew in confidence and having apparent supernatural powers. Jack would come to be one of the very few who believed in Joan. Joan wants Charles to retake Paris from the English but she was stopped by the newly-crowned king himself and the archbishop (Finlay Currie) who threatened her that she would be disowned by the church, which she has always put her faith in for her quests, if she did so. Her decision to still march on to Paris would be paid with a heavy price when she would be eventually captured by the English and be tried.

    There are times when it feels like the story has been disjointed as the film progresses, as what happened in the opening scene shows up in the epilogue of the original version of the 1923 play written by George Bernard Shaw which acted as the base for the film itself. As for those who are not familiar with the story of Joan of Arc, it can look confusing with no background information showing on the screen at the pivotal moments in the life of Joan, leading up to the trial itself.

    When it comes to what the film might had implied in terms of what was to blame for Joan's final fate before she was absolved of her original 'crime' it is still up to the viewer to decide whether it is what the film implies or not, but without any form of prenotion, that is if they have some kind of prior knowledge.

    Overall, it is a film to help especially those who are not aware of the story of Joan of Arc and what led her to do what she did despite her background and what would to be of her final fate before being made a saint, despite the confusing elements in the film itself in terms of how it is presented.
  • Perhaps it's just my weakness for short-haired brunettes that made me think that this film had far more in it's favour than it had detracting from it. The direction was admittedly slow, nay stationary, and some of the actors did not help this much.

    What was not originally appreciated about this film is that the story of Joan of Arc is an exceptionally simple one, but yet cloaked in mystery. Where the film failed was perhaps in not making us empathise with Joan, because we are given nothing of her motivations or her life before or after the seige at Orleans. Compare this to the Besson film, that fails in my eyes for the exact opposite reason, it gives us too much! I liked the film, but I liked it because although I couldn't empathise with a saint, I could empathise with a young woman who knew what she was doing, but didn't know where she was going. What I shall always remember about this film is Seberg's transformation from trusting, coy and innocent to bewildered, bothered and (dare I say it) bewitched. A great performance, and she really ought to have gone on to greater things.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Otto Preminger's notorious version of GB Shaw's SAINT JOAN was pummeled by critics on its first release due in large part to the director's controversial casting of novice Jean Seberg in the title role. While it's clear that Seberg did not possess the chops to pull of a role as complex and challenging as Joan of Arc, it's also evident, by her performance, that she's not wholly terrible either. She's not what is chiefly wrong with this film, a condensed version of the Shaw play (the screenplay is by Graham Greene). Preminger, who reportedly held the piece in the highest regard since his youth, was perhaps too close to it to put together a fully satisfying movie. His directing style, which by 1957 included many sweeping camera shots and few cuts, was not what a play this intimate needed. Although the sets by Ray Simm (built at Pinewood Studios in England) are pitch perfect, the film has a very chilly feel to it. Preminger's bigger casting blunder was to surround Seberg with the likes of John Gielgud, Anton Walbrook & Richard Todd, acting giants who soundly dwarf her. Worst of all is Richard Widmark as the sniveling Dauphin. Meant to be a child like innocent, Widmark plays his role as a feral court jester. Still, there's a number of pluses: Georges Périnal's stunning B&W photography, a rousing score by Mischa Spoliansky and many familiar faces in the (mostly) British supporting cast: Felix Aylmer, Finlay Currie, Harry Andrews and David Oxley as the bitchy "Bluebeard."
  • This version by Otto Preminger is based on the play by Bernard Shaw, in which the ghost of Joan of Arc appears to Charles VII years after her execution. We then see in flashback how the young maid led the soldiers to victory at Orleans and made the Dauphin king, and how she was later betrayed by nobles, church, and soldiers alike.

    Jean Seberg plays Joan as a very modern looking, very young girl who questions everything she sees and is at first tolerated and then shunned and feared. Richard Widmark is perhaps too comic as the Dauphin and comes across as miscast, while John Gielgud is reliable as Warwick, the English kingmaker. Other key roles are played by Anton Walbrook, Harry Andrews, Finlay Currie, and Richard Todd.

    This version of the Joan of Arc tale has a greater feel of realism that the 40s version with Ingrid Bergman, but I rate the silent versions 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' and 'Joan the Woman' higher. Although Seberg puts across a fine performance as Joan, she can't hold a candle to Falconetti in particular.
  • GBS wrote his own screen adaptation of this Nobel Prize winning play but didn't live to see it produced (he had won an Oscar in 1938 for his brilliant adaptation of his 1914 play PYGMALION). When Otto Preminger mounted (produced and directed) this production in 1957, seven years after Shaw's death, he had noted British author Graham Greene do the adaptation and it was a solid choice.

    Taking a cue from Shaw's own screenplay, Greene uses material from the stage Epilogue to create a framing device to meld the two acts of the play (one early and one late in Joan's story) into a unified and most satisfying whole. Where on stage the shift in tone is buffered with an intermission, here it works just as well with a return to KING Charles Balois's bedchamber (where the man Joan put on the throne is dreaming of the events which led to his current situation), and more material from Shaw's Epilogue - the introduction of the shade of John Gielgud's Warwick (the English "king maker").

    The majority of the language is solid GBS, and the performances from stalwart Shauvians (like Felix Aymler's Inquisitor or Harry Andrews' de Stogumber) to relative newcomers (the film established Jean Seberg's career) are first rate. It may jar some, only familiar with Richard Widmark's many movie villains, to see him playing a frail and somewhat silly Dauphin, but the performance - oddly top billed - is professional, even if arguably miscast.

    The symbolism of the opening credits and the director's choice to use the visual vocabulary of black and white filming all serve Shaw and the story well. Go in expecting quality entertainment and you won't be disappointed.
  • This movie is a should-be classic. It's not perfect, certainly. The pacing, while perfect for the stage, is in movie form slow as a tortoise with arthritic knees. Jean Seberg is misdirected to be too sweet and too gentle. She fully shows enough acting talent, skill, and craft to convincingly play the clever, passionate, and confident Joan, but, unfortunately, the director missed the point of the character. George Bernard Shaw is my favorite playwright. In no other play has his dialog been more sharp, nor the lines more musical. However, processing this film requires that you look at it as a lawyer. This movie is a case, and the viewer is the judge. That is how this picture is to be enjoyed. 7/10.
  • I must say, this isn't quite the movie experience I expected. Much of the early scene writing is decidedly lighthearted or even playful, with Richard Widmark's Dauphin/Charles VII being an especially excitable aspect. This is a straight drama, yes, and that becomes more evident in the latter half, yet the overall tone is less than abjectly somber. Of course the production design and art direction are grand; set design and decoration, costume design, and weapons and props all look outstanding, and vividly realize the time long past. The hair and makeup work is well considered; Georges Périnal's cinematography is exquisitely sharp. 'Saint Joan' is well made, I think, and I do like it, but I'm a bit surprised all the same.

    I can't speak directly to George Bernard Shaw's play, but the story of Joan of Arc is well-known. If Graham Greene's adapted screenplay is any indication I would be quite keen on seeing the play performed, and while I understand that contemporary reviews decried the writing, I take no issue with it. Even at its least serious (mostly in the first half), the scene writing is rich and cutting, as is the dialogue. Meanwhile, it seems to me that the narrative here differs slightly from other treatments of the historic figure's tale by focusing in at least equal part on the machinations of those in whose hands her fate lied. In so doing, 'Saint Joan' heavily emphasizes the astounding, horrid cruelty and hypocrisy of self-proclaimed religious authorities. When all is said and done the plot is duly engaging and compelling in communicating the course of events - though particularly in light of the framing it's distinctly uneven, and the final moments are outright gauche.

    It also seems important to highlight the cast, for two reasons. The first is that while they don't all necessarily have the same visibility and name recognition, everyone on hand turns in outstanding performances. From Widmark to John Gielgud, to Felix Aylmer and Archie Duncan, and all the rest, the actors give great displays of acting and command fantastic presence and personality in bringing their characters to life. Not least of all in the instances of those I'm least familiar with, I immediately want to find more of their pictures. The second reason to highlight the cast, though, is that while I'd be keen to see more of her films, too, the same descriptors of quality don't necessarily extend to Jean Seberg. It was a bold move, casting a fresh and inexperienced young woman as a major historical figure, and I see the reasoning - for all her zealotry, after all, who was Joan of Arc if not a young woman thrust into extraordinary circumstances? I don't think Seberg's debut here is abjectly terrible, but there's also no question that her performance lacks much of the same nuance and steady poise as her elders, and that she sticks out because of it is a bit unfortunate.

    Ultimately I think 'Saint Joan' is a fine film, worth revisiting. If nothing else, the cast is noteworthy, and the latter scenes of or surrounding Joan's trial are all-around excellent. I just wish for my part that the project were approached with a little more mindfulness; the disparity between the jocularity of the framing and early scenes are glaring next to the more sober drama of later scenes, and it does the movie no favors. Still, more so than not I think it's a good rendition of a famous piece of history - you maybe don't need to go out of your way for it, but it's worth checking out if you come across it.
  • I hesitate to call this film terrible or dreadful or awful as it inspires neither terror, nor dread, nor awe. Babyface Jean Seberg carries less gravitas than Tinkerbell, and is simply unbelievable as a woman who could lead an army. She exudes no power, no inspiration, not even any intelligence. The entire production is painfully stilted. This is a pity, since I do like the play, and Preminger and Seberg have both undertaken much more successful enterprises.

    That some people are evaluating this film based on their finding it a validation of their religious beliefs has no bearing on its quality as a work of cinema. If you want to see the best Joan of Arc film, see Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc. If you want to see Shaw's Saint Joan, see it in a local repertory theater.