Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Jeanne La Pucelle- Les Battailles et Les Prisons: Jacques Rivette

First Dreyer, then Bresson and finally Rivette- three practitioners of a kind of cinematic chastity- no damn nonsense about any of them, no sentimentality, no caressing male gaze, no camera tricks, no flinching: The story of Joan of Arc has consistently attracted the best. (Otto Preminger had a bash at it as well.) The story is extraordinary enough to need no embellishing and so pitilessly revealing of human nature at its best and worst that any sweetening of it would be intolerable.

Rivette watches his actors from a respectful distance- rarely cutting within a scene or committing to a close-up- and trusts them as he always did. The script is drawn meticulously from the existing chronicles and records- with very little invention (but then invention is hardly necessary; Joan's is one of the best documented lives of the Middle Ages) and no simplifying of the politics or modernising of the theology. With a running time of something like 6 hours, scenes get to fill the space they need- with the mid-point climax- the coronation of Charles VII- a superlative piece of sacred theatre- playing out in something like real time. Sandrine Bonnaire- rarely out of shot- compelling in her fixity of purpose- with the odd girlish grace note- makes it easy to understand how the original Joan- in the brief year she was given- won hearts, bent wills and kept on carrying the day.
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