This film is a winner, it being one of the most laughable of mysterious picture ever made. An extremely lean man and an extremely fat man are engaged in a wrestling match. The lean man ... See full summary »
A man dressed in red is ushered into an antechamber in a Castle and offered a seat. When he tried to sit down the chair moves to the other side of the room causing the man to fall on the ... See full summary »
A bearded magician holds up a large playing card and makes it larger. He tears up a card of a queen, burns the torn bits, and a life-size Queen of Hearts card appears; then, it becomes ... See full summary »
This is an elaborate production for its time, with 11 tableaux, 250 meters and a runtime of 10 minutes. Additionally, the print available on the Flicker Alley set is wonderfully hand-colored. There's also a nice vision scene-within-a-scene, which is a rather common, but appreciated, occurrence in early films. On the other hand, this early story film especially seems to be bogged down by Méliès's typical theatrical style, perhaps because it's a historical reenactment film rather than some amusing fantasy or fairytale. I don't find it as entertaining as his later films such as "Bluebeard" (1901), "A Trip to the Moon" (1902) and "The Kingdom of the Fairies" (1903), which more greatly overcome their stagy and primitive qualities. For instance, the revolving parade scene and the lame battle are goofed even for 1900. In addition, Méliès plays too many different roles in this one, which could have been confusing without the lecture provided.
Nevertheless, it would take a couple years before other film pioneers, including Edwin S. Porter, Robert W. Paul and Ferdinand Zecca, to name a few, began to make narrative films to compare to this one. "Joan of Arc" came on the heels of Méliès's earlier and first super-production "Cinderella" (1899), which, like this film, connected its tableaux by dissolves. "Joan of Arc" is somewhat more polished than "Cinderella" was, as, likewise, Méliès's later féeries (fairy films) are more refined and sophisticated than this film.
Also of note, Joan of Arc has always been a popular screen subject. The first filmed version I know of was by the Edison Company in 1895. The Lumiére Company made a shot-scene reenactment of the trial, titled "Execution of Joan of Arc" (Exécution de Jeanne d'Arc), just a year before Méliès's film. The Lumiére film, which has been available on home video, isn't worthwhile except for perhaps that it, too, survives in a hand-colored print. When I saw it, and when considering its title and that they only had a single shot-scene, I wondered why they wouldn't use the hand coloring to exploit the attraction of a burning at the stake. Méliès didn't miss opportunities like that.
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