Joan the Maid 1: The Battles (1994)

27 11 2008

Honestly, I’ve never been all that enamored by the story of Joan of Arc and I find it pretty difficult to believe that there are other cinephiles out there that think differently. Yet, there seems to be about a thousand different cinematic adaptation of the tragedy. Rivette’s adaptation, made in 1994 and starring the always lovely Sandrine Bonnaire is the sort of film I have to make exceptions for. Certainly, the narrative isn’t all intriguing, but Rivette with all of his minimalistic powers, makes the story feel so free and open, which corresponds perfectly with the type of landscapes that the amazing William Lubtchansky captures. Not one of Rivette’s best films, but certainly one of his best-looking.

I doubt anyone could argue against the claim that Carl Dreyer’s The Trial of Joan of Arc is the most famous cinematic adaptation of the story. Inevitably, every subsequent “Joan” film has been compared to this standard and yet, Rivette’s film has so little in common with Dreyer’s that one gets the feeling that it was Rivette’s intention to take the opposite approach. While Dreyer’s film is claustrophobic and emotionally violent, Rivette’s is calm and open – something that can apply to most of Rivette’s best work. It may be blasphemy (no pun intended) but Rivette does more for me. On the other hand, they are completely different films, and probably shouldn’t be compared in the first place.

Again, I must stress that I have very little interest in such history, which of course, makes even Rivette’s best technical work a little bit dry. Had it not been for the fact that the film features one of the greatest actresses of all-time, photographed by one of the greatest cinematographers of all-time, all composed by one of the greatest directors of …all-time, then there would have been no chance. I wouldn’t have even bothered. As it stands, the film is a great example of Rivette’s mastery but without any interesting content to make the film one of his best. Enjoyable to watch, but there’s about ten other Rivette films I’d rather see instead.

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5 responses

27 11 2008
gaston monescu

I want to watch this, very badly. Along with some other Joan movies, like Preminger’s “epic failure” starring Jean Seberg. Well, the Rivette and the Preminger are the only ones I would like to watch mainly because they are two of my favorite directors. I believe Rivette was a huge fan of Preminger’s Joan of Arc and I’m looking forward in seeing whether it influenced Rivette’s in any way.
Anyway, I’m much like you and I don’t really have any major interest in the story. Nor did I like Dreyer’s version that much, which may get me in trouble with many cinephiles. Bresson’s version was cool though, I guess.

27 11 2008
Renaud

I think you may be a bit too harsh on this film which I found to be absolutely fascinating. But I’ve always hold back on truly commenting the film because the only available version is about 4 hours when the original is actually 6 hours. That’d be like judging La Belle Noiseuse only on watching Divertimento. For what I know, they may be completely different films.

A little fun fact though, it is said that Rivette’s film is the most historically accurate of all the Joan of Arc films that have been made.

27 11 2008
Ed Howard

I haven’t seen this because I’ve heard that the currently available versions are severely truncated from Rivette’s original vision. It’s a real shame that the full version isn’t available anywhere.

I love Preminger’s Saint Joan, though. Jean Seberg is a perfect Joan, less a warrior saint and more a naive, innocent young girl who finds herself being manipulated and used by those around her. It’s an interesting mix of comedy, political satire, and religion.

27 11 2008
Jake Savage

Well, it is Facets. By their standards, though, the picture looks great and they were nice enough to include some slightly informative text screens. Rivette’s two Joan films are another example of how unrespected he is on DVD. Is there even a French release of these films? Anybody? Even though it is heavily cut, this still has a very Rivette-ian pace to it.

I’m definitely looking forward to Preminger’s Saint Joan, as well as Bonjour Tristesse.

28 11 2008
Michael Kerpan

The version issued by Facets is expressly disapproved by Rivette. Unlike the other short versions of his films, this one was done totally without his approval (presumably, the distribution contract signed by the French producer was not well drafted). I have a horrid (possibly defective) copy of the French video release (now long o/p). Despite the difficulty in watching this version, my sense is that the real version flows better (and seems shorter, subjectively).

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