Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc / The Trial of Joan of Arc

Jeanne d’Arc / Jeanne d'Arc. FR 1962. PC: Agnès Delahaie Productions. P: Agnès Delahaie. D+SC: Robert Bresson – based on the court records: Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc – 1431 and 1456. DP: Léonce-Henry Burel. AD: Pierre Charbonnier. Cost: Lucilla Mussini. M: Francis Seyrig. ED: Germaine Artus. S: Antoine Archimbaud. C: Florence Delay alias Carrez (Jeanne), Jean-Claude Fourneau (bishop Cauchon), Marc Jacquier (Jean Lemaitre, the inquisitor), Roger Honorat (Jean Beaupère), Jean Gillibert (Jean de Châtillon), André Régnier (D’Estivet), Michel Herubel (Brother Isambart de la Pierre), Jean Darbaud (Nicolas de Houppeville), Richard Pratt (Warwick), Michael Williams (Englishman), Harry Sommers (Bishop of Winchester), Donald O’Brien (English priest), Gérard Zingg (Jean Lohier), André Maurice (Tiphaine), Paul-Robert Mimet (Guillaume Erard), Yves Leprince (Pierre Morice), Arthur Le Bau (Jean Massieu), Philippe Dreux (Brother Martin Ladvenu). Shooting dates and location: 17 July - 15 September 1961, Île de France: basement and park of the Meudon Observatory. Helsinki premiere: 18.10.1974 Astra, distributor: ABC-Kinot / Aito Mäkinen, with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Maarit Niiniluoto / Lisbet Eriksson – VET 81935 – K8 – 1755 m / 64 min. The 1974 ABC-Kinot print viewed at 1,66:1 at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (50 Years Ago), 8 August 2012.

Revisited one of Robert Bresson's masterpieces, one of his central works. It is a special case, as it is the only Bresson movie based on a popular subject, also filmed by many others with great success. It is also a special case because the subject is a person who has already found, and is not lost. Perhaps Jeanne can be compared with Fontaine in Un condamné à mort s'est échappé. Or perhaps from the viewpoint of a non-believer Jeanne is a holy madwoman, who has lost and found herself in madness. From Bresson's viewpoint the portrait of Jeanne is one of utter asceticism and austerity, and of profound dignity and sublimity. And for the general non-believing viewer Jeanne is a portrait of both human vulnerability and a final dignity in front of terror, torture, and death.

Le Procès de Jeanne d'Arc is also a special case because it was made consciously to differ from Carl Th. Dreyer's movie on the same subject, La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (voted recently on the 2012 Sight & Sound Top Ten list of the best films in the world).

Dreyer's movie was silent, and Dreyer demanded that it should be shown without music. He repeated the demand in the context of the 1952 Lo Duca re-release with music by Scarlatti, Bach, etc. Bresson's is a sound movie, and it really is speech and sound driven. It is based on court records, and there is a lot of dialogue. There is no extra-diegetic music; only diegetic sounds of drums and horns. The sound of the crowd is heard, but no crowd is seen. The roaring sound of the bonfire conveys the terror of the burning as vividly as the images.

As distinct from Dreyer, Bresson explicitly avoided close-ups of faces, especially of Jeanne's eyes lifted towards heaven. But there may be even more close-ups in Bresson's movie than in Dreyer's: of feet, hands, details of clothes, chains, ropes, doors, and the peephole in the wall of Jeanne's cell. Reviewers have noticed the voyeuristic Psycho connection.

Bresson's is the most minimalistic of the Jeanne d'Arc movies. It does not prevent it from achieving spiritual grandeur.

The print is fine, complete, and only slightly scratched at tails.

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