Combustible Celluloid
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With: Florence Carrez (Florence Delay), Jean-Claude Fourneau, Roger Honorat, Marc Jacquier, Jean Gillibert, Michel Herubel
Written by: Robert Bresson
Directed by: Robert Bresson
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 65
Date: 11/02/1965

The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

4 Stars (out of 4)

True Believers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Robert Bresson was most likely aware of Carl Theodor Dreyer's great 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc when he undertook his own version with this 1962 black-and-white effort. He managed not only to make an entirely different film, but he also made one just as powerful and beautiful. Both films were supposedly based on the original trial transcripts, but Bresson made more of a straightforward account with his film.

Running only 65 minutes, The Trial of Joan of Arc begins with one of Bresson's trademark feet shots -- Joan walking to face her accusers. During the trial Bresson simply cuts back and forth between Joan (Florence Carrez), who has an answer for every question, and her pious judges, who refuse to believe that God and his angels spoke to her and asked her to lead the French army to war against the English.

As the film goes on, Bresson shows more and more of Joan's human side, sitting in her cell, fearing for her life and even weeping. By the time he gets to the famous burning-at-the-stake scene, the film is all emotion. When a dog rushes up to get a better view of the stake, we can almost believe that it's another of God's angels sent there to lend her comfort.

DVD Details: The Trial of Joan of Arc (a.k.a. Procès de Jeanne d'Arc) is not officially available on video or DVD in the United States, but I recently happened upon a bootleg DVD in an Arizona bookshop while browsing with my uncle. It's a terrible transfer, presumably made from a 16mm print, but considering the greatness of this film, it's more than acceptable. Oddly, the disc also comes with a short film by Dziga Vertov.

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