Archive for La Vie Merveilleuse de Jeanne D’Arc

The Sunday Intertitle: Missing In Action

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on April 8, 2012 by dcairns

Louis Delluc’s FIEVRE has no intertitles — not, as with Kirsanoff’s majestic MENILMONTANT, because it was designed that way, but because they’ve all been lost. Maybe during the film’s travels around the world, when it was common to cut out the French  titles and splice in new ones in the language of wherever the film was playing.

A number of movies which suffered this fate have since had their titles restored, using the censor’s records. The censors, you see, ARE good for something. A famous example is Feuillade’s serials, admired by the surrealists for their freeform irrationality. They were slightly less irrational when they had titles (as they once more do) — but only slightly.

Delluc got off lightly, for his film has such a slight plot, and wallows so exquisitely in the emotions produced by said plot, that it’s easy to imagine text adding an unwelcome literal quality. Who knows?

What’s left is certainly a delirious evocation of emotional turmoil augmented by drink… note all the ads for Dewars, a nice Scottish element. Note also the reassuring presence of Gaston Modot, France’s most psychotronic actor. Modot seemed to move casually from modest roles in mainstream fair like LA MERVEILLEUSE VIE DE JEANNE D’ARC to leading roles in the likes of L’AGE D’OR (if that film can be said to have a “like”). Seeing this familiar supporting player gaze passionately at a statue’s toes or kicking a blind man must have had a strange and blasphemous feeling for contemporaneous audiences. To get the same effect, we’d have to mentally sub in Greg Kinnear or something.

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Arc Light

Posted in FILM, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2012 by dcairns

For my thoughts on Dreyer’s PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, read this old piece. But for a review of the OTHER 1920s Joan film, the one contemporary audiences flocked to in preference, see this week’s edition of The Forgotten, the first in a short series celebrating the productions of Pathe-Natan, a short-lived incarnation of the French film company Pathe…

Can you treat a production company as an auteur? Certainly, if you give any credence to the genius of the system. (And, sure, the system can be idiotic at times, but so can the most respected geniuses.)

While on the subject of Joan of Arc and idiocy, I feel it’s not too late to say that Luc Besson’s JOAN OF ARC is an awful, awful piece of work, so putrid that it’s a source of wonder to me that people to this day do not point, and laugh, and hurl tiny stinging pellets of owl-shit at Besson when he appears in public. The reason for my distaste is not the director’s girlfriend, Milla Jojobabitch, who I think is perfectly adequate given the kind of Joan she’s been asked to play. My dislike is based on one scene — one of the foulest messes ever splashed upon a screen.

Besson invents for Joan a sister murdered by the English, in best BRAVEHEART manner (OK, it wasn’t William Wallace’s sister, but you get my drift — apparently a movie hero needs to be motivated by a thirst for personal revenge, not patriotism or religion). Said sister is not only murdered but raped, and in that order. And Besson sees fit to throw in a bit of comedy relief at the same time.

Said sister is actually skewered by a broadsword, nailed to a wall behind which Joan is hiding (so Besson can shoot the bloody blade emerging inches from Joan’s horrified face, of course). Then the murderer has his way with the corpse. Then he turns to two companions, resting at the kitchen table, and says something along the lines of “Who wants to go next?”

And the two guys turn to each other in a synchronized double-take, eyebrows raised. The comedy style is out of John Landis, and to say it sits somewhat awkwardly in the overall tone of the scene is a bit like saying a fart gag during the Auschwitz shower scene in SCHINDLER’S LIST might have seemed a bit out-of-keeping. I was really annoyed by the double-takes in THE EXTRAORDINARILY PROTRACTED TITLE OF ADELE BLANC-SEC, mainly because they always tried to force a laugh from the audience when nothing funny had actually happened, but possibly because the acrid tang of his JOAN was still in my mental nostrils.

So I dunno. If you live anywhere near Besson, or find yourself in Cannes when he’s got a film playing, maybe you need to make sure you have some owl pellets in your side pocket or purse. I’m just saying.

Fortunately, nothing as bad as the Besson atrocity happens in Marco de Gastyne’s LA VIE MERVEILLEUSE DE JEANNE D’ARC. Although, ouch:

“Non, je ne regrette rien…”