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In the Fifteenth Century, France is a defeated and ruined nation after the One Hundred Years War against England. The fourteen years old farm girl Joan of Arc claims to hear voices from Heaven asking her to lead God's Army against Orleans and crowning the weak Dauphin Charles VII as King of France. Joan gathers the people with her faith, forms an army and conquerors Orleans. When her army is ready to attack Paris, the corrupt Charles sells his country to England and dismiss the army. Joan is arrested, sold to the Burgundians England and submitted to a shameful political trial in Rouen castle. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In the 100-minute edited version, only the first ten actors listed in the cast are given credit. Even actors who have very noticeable, if small roles, such as George Coulouris, Alan Napier, Jeff Corey, William Conrad, and George Zucco go unmentioned in the short version, as do Selena Royle and Robert Barrat, who play Joan's parents. In the complete 145-minute film, all of the actors mentioned above are listed, as are the characters they play, in addition to many other actors in the film who play small but significant roles. Only those with bit parts go unmentioned. See more »
(NOTE: This review concerns the 100-minute edited cut shown on TCM.)
This 1948 version of Joan of Arc's story is a big disappointment considering the talent involved: director Victor Fleming, who directed both GONE WITH THE WIND and THE WIZARD OF OZ in 1939, and a cast including Ingrid Bergman, José Ferrer, and Ward Bond. JOAN OF ARC (1948) fails to live up to any expectations.
The editing is amateurish. There are abrupt cuts from one shot to the next, often cutting off bits of dialogue on the soundtrack. The voice- over does its job in setting the scenes within a historical narrative, but gives the movie an air of vintage "making of" TV specials. It almost seems as if stand-alone scenes were shot without knowing how to weave them together.
The storytelling is too sincere and sentimental, giving the film an awkward hokey sensibility. Whereas Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 masterpiece THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC left room for interpretation regarding matters of divine intervention, this version is pretty straightforward about holy miracles, playing like a Sunday school movie. That is to say it's a religious fable about Ste. Joan of Arc, rather than a historical piece about Joan rallying her countrymen against English rule. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Ingrid Bergman was actually nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Joan, a French teenager in the 1400s who believed she was called upon by God to raise an army against the English occupation of her country, later to be convicted of heresy by a council of pro-English clergymen. (It was Bergman's fourth nomination out of a career total of seven, including three wins.) José Ferrer also earned a nomination, playing the French Dauphin whom Joan fought to put on the throne. The top performances were by Bergman as Joan, Francis L. Sullivan as the corrupt judge, and J. Carrol Naish as a slimy one-eyed nobleman. Much of the supporting cast is second-rate.
Maybe JOAN OF ARC is only unimpressive today as viewed by modern cynics. Or perhaps the trouble lies with the existing copies of the film. Whatever the case may be, the movie earned seven Oscar nods (including Best Editing!) and won an honorary award for its moral values.
NOTE: Apparently the original release was a 145-minute cut, which was trimmed down to 100 minutes with added voice-over narration. This chopped-down version is shown on TV and is an embarrassing mess. The 145-minute version won the awards and is supposedly available on DVD.
UPDATE 1/9/12: The full 145-minute version (just shown on TCM) is clearly superior to the edited-down version with the awful narration. It's an ambitious production, although its Sunday School tone is still a bit over-the-top (at least for this reviewer). The film takes itself way too seriously overall, but Jose Ferrer brings personality to the proceedings and Francis L. Sullivan stands out in his villainous role. The second half, with Joan's trial at the hands of the wicked Sullivan, is more effective than the first half and Ingrid Bergman's best moments are in her final scene.
5/10 for the butchered version; 6.5/10 for the full-length epic
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