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|Index||18 reviews in total|
Geraldine Farrar's performance as Joan of Arc, along with some
memorable visual sequences, are the main reasons why "Joan the Woman"
is still worth seeing today, despite the availability of many other
movies about the celebrated French heroine. Although Farrar is not as
remarkable as Maria Falconetti was 11 years later (which is by no means
a criticism of Farrar - no one else has come close to Falconetti in the
role of Joan, and most probably no one will for many years to come),
she is very good, especially given the limitations of the time.
Except for clearly being older than the historical Joan was, Farrar conveys pretty well the most important characteristics of the heroine. She and DeMille did well to avoid making her too feminine, instead making her a strong and interesting leader with a limited but heartfelt set of priorities. The story does include some rather fanciful DeMille touches, but as cinema they work well enough, even if on a handful of occasions they may seem out of place in Joan's story. The screenplay also gives Farrar a chance to show many different sides of her character.
Some of the large-scale sequences are also nicely done for an era in which film-makers usually had to work out by themselves how to film such scenes, with only a handful of previous examples to go by. While some of the seams might show now, they did a very good job with what was available, and they must have looked rather impressive in their day.
Raymond Hatton performs well enough in the rather thankless role of the weak king Charles, and Theodore Roberts has some good villainous moments as Cauchon. Some of the other characters, while satisfactory, are a bit too non-descript to be a fully effective complement to Joan.
The one real weakness of the movie is the now-extraneous sequence set in the World War that was in progress when the film was made. It's not bad in itself, and contemporary audiences might have found it worthwhile, but the story of Joan of Arc is really powerful enough that it should be allowed to stand on its own.
Overall, "Joan the Woman" is a good to very good movie in just about every respect, and it is still among the better Joan of Arc films. Perhaps the only one that is clearly superior is the amazing 1928 Dreyer/Falconetti masterpiece "The Passion of Joan of Arc". Since there are a number of sound movies about Joan available, this one unfortunately may not get much attention anymore, but for those who still enjoy the silents, it's worth seeing.
This is a curio - the story of Joan of Arc leading on from a view of the English trenches in World War One (which was still of course, a reality when this film was made). Geraldine Farrar might not look the part of Joan but she manages to convey all the power, spirituality and vulnerability the part demands. her acting is a little theatrical as you would expect from an opera diva but she is excellent nontheless. Wallace Reid (a tragic casualty of Hollywood not that long after this) is pretty good as well, although I thought the love story angle stretched credibility a bit in places. The film itself meanders a bit but when you consider it is over eighty years old it still retains a remarkable amount of effect. Not as good as the 1928 Dreyer film but one to seek out.
DeMille's JOAN THE WOMAN would be an extraordinary film of any silent year
but the fact that it was made when feature films were only two years old
staggering. Its companion epics, BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE (1915,
1916 respectively) seem crude next to it. The narrative flows with
audience absorption for two hours and eighteen minutes. I can only add to
the praise of all the reviews on IMDB and Amazon. The print is the
and clearest of any restoration I've seen and the tinting is exemplary,
especially the hand tinted flames of the final conflagration - one would
swear we were watching early Technicolor but that event was still a year
away. Farrar is fine in the lead with only a few exaggerated postures.
This would certainly have given INTOLERANCE a run for its money had there
been Oscars then, also considering this made money but the latter flopped
the boxoffice. Certainly nods for Best Film, Actress, Direction,
Cinematography and Editing are in order.
The film is divided into two acts with the first ending neatly at 75 minutes into the feature.
The KINO restoration is well worth the price - do yourself a great favor and add it to your video library.
All the Demille trademarks are here - huge crowd scenes, wild orgies,
torture - but there is also a beauty and imagination here that is lacking
some of his later work. The use of double exposures for Joan's visions,
magnificent use of lighting and colour tinting, reveal a film-maker of
greater depth than we might expect.
Opera diva Geraldine Farrar seems a little old and hefty for Joan of Arc, but once you get past that she truly gives an excellent performance. And Wallace Reid as her English lover lends strong support.
The camera is a little static and the "spectacular" battle scene is really just hundreds of people running around waving sticks in the air and falling backwards off walls (and I think very little attention was paid to the safety of the extras and the horses), but this is still a very rewarding and innovative film. And we get the original 1916 score performed on a Wurlitzer.
The historical story is framed by a World War 1 (then currently raging in Europe) scene, which adds poignancy to the piece, but does make the central thesis of the story (that God takes sides in wars) a little harder to take. Ramon Novarro's in this somewhere - can you find him?
This is without a doubt the finest screen version of Joan of Arc. The multi-talented Geraldine Farrar brings this saintly woman to the screen in all her piety. This is DeMille's first epic and he laid the groundwork for his subsequent masterpieces. This film is not only important for the superb acting but also for the technical aspects such as composition and beautiful photography. These early years are generally classified as DeMille's "Visionary Period". This is a wonderfully restored film complete with the hand tinted frames and William Furst's musical score from the original 1916 release. A very elaborate production for the time brimming with artistry and compelling continuity. The use of early special effects such as double exposure, the tinted frames to depict certain moods, blues for subdued and bright oranges for fiery rage. Opera diva Geraldine Farrar proved she was as dynamic an actress as she was a soprano. She was every inch Jeanne d' Arc, beautiful, pious, gentle yet strengthened by her faith and patriotism in the face of battle. She breathed so much into this role, no one, not even Ingrid Bergman did it better. There is also fine support from Wallace Reid and Raymond Hatton as Charles VII. That noble actor Hobart Bosworth gives a fine performance as the faithful General La Hire. An all star cast for 1916 audiences. An edifying work of art.
Joan The Woman was Cecil B DeMille's first epic, the genre that today
he is best remembered for, although at this point it was more the case
that was hopping on a band wagon. After the massive success of Italian
"super production" Cabiria, DW Griffith had made Intolerance and Thomas
Ince (forgotten today but a big name at the time) did a World War epic
called Civilization. In 1916, all the big names were doing epics, and
DeMille, now established as Paramount's star filmmaker, wasn't going to
be the one to miss out.
Joan The Woman was something like De Mille's fourth or fifth collaboration with Jeanie Macpherson. Typically of Macpherson it has a tight storyline somewhat marred by some rather odd ideas. The framing story, set in war-torn Europe, is apparently there to give the tale some contemporary relevance, and it may be in part an Intolerance-inspired blending of narratives in different historic periods. However on MacPherson's part it seems to be a chance to explore her interest in reincarnation. So we get this daft little story about a British soldier who was in a past life the man who betrayed Joan, and now has to go and sacrifice himself in battle to repay the debt. An officer holds up a bomb as if it were the catch of the day "I need one of you chaps to go and drop this in the German trench. Oh and by the way it's a suicide mission, so think carefully before you volunteer" The whole thing looks like something out of Blackadder Goes Forth.
This is DeMille though, and it's not about the daft plot it's about the big picture. De Mille's deftness at handling crowd scenes had been apparent since his earliest films, but here he really gets to use that skill to its full potential. The main battle sequence is as spectacular as those in Intolerance, but it is also convincing. DeMille apparently set the two opposing armies of extras genuine objectives hence we get a very real sense of desperation and determination. He makes good use of high angles looking down on the action God's-eye-views, perhaps. DeMille also builds up tension to the clash of armies with a mighty cavalry charge across the screen, and in this we see the seeds of the equivalent sequences in DeMille's The Crusades (1935) Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky and Olivier's Henry V, all of which used and developed the opening cavalry charge to add excitement to battle scenes.
DeMille continues to progress well with his mastery of visual grammar. As per usual in his silent pictures, he makes some use of "Rembrandt lighting" well lit actors against dark backgrounds. Here however he achieves a similar effect, albeit it with light and dark reversed, with clouds of dust or smoke framing the characters as silhouettes. Also much in evidence here is DeMille's use of images to imply sound for example a shot of church bells ringing, followed by a shot of Joan reacting to the sound conveys narrative (and in this case character information) without resorting to intertitles. DeMille knows that he doesn't necessarily have to throw in a title every time a character opens their mouth, and as often as possible keeps a smooth flow of meaningful images. The romantic scenes between Geraldine Farrar and Wallace Reid are particularly effective as a result. Having said that, there is perhaps a bit too much pompous theatrical gesturing from the actors, which I suppose goes hand-in-hand with the rather unnecessary use of "thees" and "thous" in the titles.
It's perhaps rather appropriate that, as well as being the first time DeMille brought epic spectacle to the fore, this is also his first story to contain a heavy dose of religious piety. For DeMille, as we can see here, God is a showman, a god of miracles, visions and righteous destruction. The incredibly egomaniacal DeMille probably saw himself as a similar figure, dazzling the populace and hammering home his messages with spectacle and special effects. So, with Joan The Woman, we see the beginnings of the DeMille who would one day part the red sea and resurrect Jesus on the silver screen.
The problem with Joan of Arc is that she was only seventeen when her
story began.Geraldine Farrar was 25 and she was obviously too old for
the part.Most of the versions to come had the same problem:to name but
three,Ingrid Bergman in Fleming's epic,or MIchèle MOrgan in Joan's
native country or even Falconetti in Dreyer's masterpiece were not
physically the maid of Orleans .Otto Preminger was right when he cast a
nineteen years old Jean Seberg.
This is minor quibble .De Mille' s movie is a good,nay excellent epic. It was a propaganda movie,cause it featured a "modern" prologue and an epilogue which took place in the tranches during WW1.DeMille would continue in that vein in his "ten commandment" (1923) where a long biblical part was followed by a "realistic" contemporary tale.But propaganda movie does not mean bad movie!Cecil Blunt de Mille was a storyteller extraordinaire,only equaled in the silent era by David Wark Griffith.
Joan's adventures are half history (The meeting with the queen in Chinon,my own native town ,the trial ,Jean de Luxembourg selling Joan)half fictionalized history: Eric de Trent appears at the beginning of Joan's epic ,in Domremy,we find him back in Orleans,Compiègne,Rouen,all along the way,which has nothing to do with French history.Ditto for the king's failed abdication just when Joan is in the castle ,or worse the poisoned wine (by Bishop Pierre Cauchon,no less.Eric de TRent looks like an alter ego of Gilles de Retz (or Rais) -not present in the movie- who reportedly was in love with Joan and who ,becoming mad after her death ,buggered and killed lots of children (the legend made him Blue Beard).
This is a very well told story;La Tremouille's despicable role -he is referred to as "the spider" ,I have not noticed his name in the lines- is not passed over in silence;the battles in Orleans are better than ,say,the Lara Croftesque ones depicted by Luc Besson's recent "the messenger" ;the martyrdom in Rouen where De Mille makes an unusually inventive use of color for the fire.All the lines are in Middle -Ages English :funny how ,since William the Conqueror,many French and English words look like each other (coward=couard ,old French for "lâche" ).Sentences from the trial are often authentic.
French's honor!This "Joan of Arc" is one of the best!
Like this? Try these:
"La Merveilleuse HIstoire de Jeanne D'Arc" Marc(o) De Gastyne,1928 "La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc " Carl Dreyer 1928 "Joan of Arc " Victor Fleming 1948 "Destinées" Jean Delannoy 1953 (one sketch) "Giovanna d'Arco al rogo" Roberto Rosselini,1954 "Saint Joan" Otto Preminger 1957 "Procès de Jeanne D'Arc" Robert Bresson 1962
The great opera soprano -- and early film star -- Geraldine Farrar has sometimes been treated as a curiosity in movie history (though Kevin Brownlow does her full justice in THE PARADE'S GONE BY). Here at last is her favorite film role as Joan of Arc, accompanied by the original score, magnificently played. Ignore the insipid romance and admire the ease with which Farrar plays a woman of commanding presence and divine inspiration. The battle scenes, for 1917, are extraordinarily impressive. The climactic scene at the stake, in which DeMille's visual conception, the tremendous musical score, and Farrar's sublime acting combine to overwhelming effect, is unforgettable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Englishman, there is room in each heart but for one love - mine is for
France!" ... what spiritually profound words by Joan the Woman, one of
the most controversial figures in history: a simple peasant girl for
her relatives, Joan the Milkmaid for the British conquerors, Joan the
Leader for French army, and Joan the Witch for some clergy. Finally,
Joan the Saint!
Having watched some silent movies of the 1920s, my interest in these films rose considerably. Not only me but a lot of other today's viewers find the power of non verbal acting pretty appealing and that occurs to be an absolutely justifiable opinion. The power of expression reached the climax in silent era feature films. And what comes to mind are the great productions like BEN HUR (1925), KING OF KINGS (1927), THE BIG PARADE (1925) and THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921). After seeing these films, I directed my interest towards movies of the 1910s and the first epic movie by a top notch name, Cecil Blount DeMille. In 1917, just after two greatest movies by D.W. Griffith BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) and INTOLERANCE (1916), he brought to screen the story of the saint in JOAN THE WOMAN. And how I found JOAN THE WOMAN? Very worth seeing.
The content of the film can be divided into three subsequent parts: two parts (or epochs as referred to in the movie) include the story of Joan of Arc showed chronologically from her youth in Domremy till the Battle of the Towers, so to speak when the simple maid turns into the national hero; and her later story where the victorious savior turns into the falling martyr. The third part consists of 1917 propaganda: the short story set in 1916, during WWI somewhere in France where the soldier finds the sword of Joan and fulfills the duty to expiate a sin... The last aspect seems perhaps least appealing nowadays but means much historically for the sake of 1917 viewers who watched the movie and felt the link between the presence and the past (consider the absolutely different role of cinema at that time).
There are many visually stunning scenes which never stop astonishing viewers, not only silent buffs. When I saw JOAN THE WOMAN for the first time, I could not believe the fact the film was shot in 1917, purely at the dawn of feature films. As early as this, we can feel Cecil B DeMille's splendor and showmanship: hundreds of extras in battles, lavish costumes at royal court, very clear introduction of events, strict contrast between good and wickedness, overly preachy treatment of characters and pretty predictable action (which cannot be avoided in the story like this). Three moments remained in my memory as exceptionally powerful: the first one being Joan's visit at Chinon and her miraculous recognition of Charles, the second one the battle for Orleans and the third one the final sequence and Joan's martyrdom. The square at Rouen where Joan was burned is the most accurate in this movie: exactly that is what the place was like. Other scenes are also worth considering including the whole second epoch and the infamous trial for witchcraft, called Travesty of Justice, led by satanically envious bishop Cauchon (Theodore Roberts).
As for performances, this factor lies on the shoulders of three cast: Wallace Reid as proud, noble, shabby Eric Trent who gets through a change of love towards Joan from desire to respect but does not dare step into her mission (later it is him as the WWI soldier); Theodore Roberts as the wicked bishop Cauchon whose only way of act is conspiracy ruled by prejudice, fear for power, superstition and jealousy (his worth moments include the plan to poison Charles and the whole trial of Joan); and Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc. Although she is definitely too old and in no way looks to be the Maid of Orleans, she makes for this thanks to her brilliant acting that has not faded till now. She plays the saintly woman and a brave warrior alike.
The restored version of JOAN THE WOMAN on DVD has the additional music in which we mostly hear the organs. Although it may seem monotonous at some points, such score supplies the movie with additional entertainment. For me, the best musical and visual moment was the Long Night and the terrible contrast of tunes and visuals between Joan in prison and king Charles at the lustful party in his court. Some people criticize the film for being too long. Yet, I believe that the action is dynamic and though the events are predictable, the curiosity as to how the director wants to show them keeps viewer's attention.
JOAN THE WOMAN is a silent movie very worth seeking out. It's not a masterpiece but a brilliant glimpse at early feature film and early Cecil B DeMille. In spite of later productions about the saint, the best of which many people consider psychological masterpiece THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC with Maria Falconetti, Cecil B DeMille's 1917 movie is still one of the three best ones, for sure. It has dynamic action, it has stunning visuals, it has marvelous performances and a vivid interpretation. 7/10
Yes, her love was for France; yet her price was martyrdom. But the Cross she looked at helped her make good use of sacrificial suffering and become a terrifying warning against any of human judgments. Aren't they all so subjective?
Premiered nearly a hundred years ago today on Christmas Day 1916, this
marked the first of the historical epics with which Cecil B. DeMille's
name became synonymous, and far excels his later sound spectacles, by
which time he'd lost his enthusiasm for location filming and his films
had become painfully studio bound, with just a few token exterior
sequences left in the hands of second-unit directors. Handsomely
designed by Wilfred Buckland and photographed by Alvin Wyckoff, at 138
minutes it weighs in at almost as long as Victor Fleming's Technicolor
folly of 1948 with Ingrid Bergman and far surpasses it as spectacle.
Imposing a contemporary WWI framing story was probably prompted by Griffith's 'Intolerance' and pushes the film over the two hour mark, making it a long film even today; and the first third of the film drags a bit. The other weak link in the chainmail is Farrar herself. The title 'Joan the Woman' (compared to later versions with titles like 'Das Mädchen Johanna' and 'Jeanne la Pucelle') already seems to acknowledge that DeMille is aware that the 34 year-old soprano Geraldine Farrar looks extremely matronly in the role (much more so than the 32 year-old Ingrid Bergman in 1948), although in the rare close-ups DeMille gives her (in which she's usually noticeably lit for effect from below), she actually looks strikingly like the 43 year-old Hedy Lamarr in 'The Story of Mankind' (1957). She also unfortunately gives probably the worst performance in the film, constantly playing to the camera rather than the other actors.
However when Joan finally gets into her armour and lays siege to Orléans the film really gets going. The screen absolutely swarms with extras, some of whom look as if they're genuinely getting hurt (you can actually see some of them flinching). Joan's imprisonment and trial also captures DeMille's imagination and provides him with the opportunity to indulge in one of the torture sequences he developed a penchant for, to the accompaniment of appropriately dramatic 'Rembrandt' lighting. Now in the clutches of tombstone-faced Theodore Roberts as Cauchon, the faces of the menacing-looking extras DeMille amassed to fill the courtroom during Joan's trial are really something; as is her execution, when a flaming orange firebrand is applied to her pyre. Courtesy of the Handschiegl colour process she expires in an eye-boggling blaze of orange flames.
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