Friday, June 8, 2007

Joan the Maid (1994)

Directed by Jacques Rivette. Starring Sandrine Bonnaire.

Jacques Rivette is perhaps the most overlooked of the great French New Wave directors, with no fewer than three genuine masterpieces to his name- at one point, I toyed with including his films LA BELLE NOISEUSE and CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING on this list. However, in the end I chose this two-part telling of the Joan of Arc story, with Bonnaire's towering performance in the lead role. Rivette's film is not solely focused on Joan's trial and execution, as C.T. Dreyer's version is, but instead Rivette uses the four-hour running time (nearly six hours in its original television version) to supply a historical context for the story. We see the difficulty of the times, not only from the standpoint of the political climate but also the religious suspicion that was rampant in the period. Through these perils Joan strides, and Bonnaire's achievement is that she manages to make Joan willful and touched by grace, while not shying away from the great anxieties that would've plagued a girl in her situation.

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