Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scandalous Women on Film: Joanapalooza on TCM

Tomorrow from 8 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., TCM has programmed 4 movies about Joan of Arc, which I'm calling Joanapalooza. After spending time researching Joan of Arc for SCANDALOUS WOMEN, I'm eager to see at least 2 of these films (I don't know if I have the stamina to watch all 4!).  I was familiar with George Bernard Shaw's play St. Joan and the French playwright Jean Anouilh's play The Lark, but I have never seen any of these four films.

First up at 8:00 p.m. is the 1948 film Joan of Arc, directed by Victor Fleming (The Wizard of Oz, GWTW) and starring Ingrid Bergman as Joan and Jose Ferrer as the Dauphin.  The film is based on the Maxwell Anderson play which was in blank verse like several of his other plays including Anne of the Thousand Days. This was one of the last Hollywood films that Ingrid Bergman did until 1956, due to her scandalous love affair with director Roberto Rossellini, while she was still married to her first husband. She was actually denounced on the floor of Congress for giving birth out of wedlock to her first child by Rossellini, Robertino. She didn't make another Hollywood film until Anastasia. For years, the film was overshadowed by Bergman's personal life, and while not a financial failure, it didn't do nearly as well as it might have been.  Bergman was 33 when she made the film, which is almost twice the age that Joan was in real life.

Next up at 10:30 p.m. is the 1957 Otto Preminger film St. Joan starring Jean Seberg with Richard Widmark and Richard Todd. I'm curious about this one too because Jean Seberg has never had much of a reputation as an actress, but I think she was hand-picked by Preminger out of nowhere for this role, and she was really young at the time, probably no more than 19 which is the age Joan was when she was executed.

At 12:30 a.m. is a silent film, 1928's The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer who I have heard of and starring several actors that I haven't. The film stars RenĂ©e Jeanne Falconetti,as Joan, this was her second film and her last. According to Wikipedia, it is widely regarded as a landmark of cinema,especially for its production, its direction and Falconetti's performance, which has been described as being among the finest in cinema history.  The film was also considered revolutionary because Dreyer shot a large number of close-ups of the actors, so that audiences could really see their facial expressions. and he discouraged them from wearing make-up.  The film was thought lost after a fire destroyed the original negative, and the poor director tried to reconstruct it from outtakes. However, an original copy of the film was found in a janitor's closet in an Oslo mental institution. Seriously, you can't make stuff like this up. This is the print that will be shown on TCM. You can see the original poster for the film on the right. I don't know it looks kind of creepy with the flames, not quite as heroic as the Ingrid Bergman portrait.

The final film at 2:00 a.m. is Le Process de Jeanne D'Arc, a 1962 French film, which like The Passion of Joan of Arc, was taken from the trial transcripts.

So, has anyone seen these films before or the plays? If you have, what did like or didn't like about them? I'm really curious to hear what people think.

4 comments:

Pauline said...

I saw Dreyer's "Passion" at the Orange County (Calif) Performing Arts Center with the singing group Anonymous 4 providing live music in the '90s and it was amazing. I am a great devotee of St. Jeanne and this movie - although exceedingly clean in it's general look - is psychologically poignant and thought provoking. The acting - in particular by Falconetti - is superb. To imagine a 17 year old girl going through all that is particularly gut-wrenching. I heartily recommend it!

S.L. Stevens said...

Ack, I missed the Ingrid Bergman one! I've heard it's really good. I'm Catholic and I've loved St. Joan ever since I wrote a report on her when I was 12. I'll have to watch the last two and let you know what I think.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I watched the Ingrid Bergman which I found a little too Hollywood (Bergman thought so too), and I watched part of the Jean Seberg, but I got annoyed when she kept calling the Dauphin Charlie. Thought it was interesting though that it was filmed in black and white. Still have to watch the Dreyer all the way through but the little I saw last night was fascinating. Extreme close-ups and wonderful music.

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