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REVIEWS117 a better book: the author's Latin is better, and he explains it well in his notes. But the field is still open. JAMES J . o'dONNELL University of Pennsylvania Joan ofArc. christian duguay, dir. Alliance Atlantis Films for CBS Television, 1999. Approx. 130 mins. Hollywood has done it again—this time via the fertile mind ofEd Gernon, producer and (apparently) screenwriter ofthis latest celluloid attempt at Joan's story—taken a complex, ceaselessly captivating story and reduced it to a series ofbanalities, with most innovations gratuitously playing havoc with history, all valiantly schlepped along by a cast deserving better, and swathed in stylish cinematography. In a pre-broadcast interview granted Patricia Brennan of the Washington Post, 13 May 1999, Gernon and Duguay proclaim their manifesto: 'She led men into battle, she lost her way and she struggled her way back (Gernon)'; 'an innocent child...victim of her own empowerment. We're going much deeper into the psychology ofthat character (Duguay).' This perspective, what we might call the Joan-centered approach, hopes effectively to engage audience rapport, which one certainly needs to survive the cumulative hour of commercial breaks (though I commend Sprint, a chiefsponsor, for not cashing in on Joan's voices via fiber optics). Carl Dreyer used the 'Joan-centered' approach back in 1928, in what is often considered the finest film on the heroine despite many departures from conventional images both ofJoan and filmmaking. Dreyer succeeded because his single, guiding idea ofJoan, however particular, was uncompromisingly intelligent, both as concept and as artistic realization. He also remained amazingly faithful and comprehensive in his grasp of historical detail. Gernon and Duguay even pay homage to Dreyer toward the end of the film, during the brief trial scene, when the camera pans over closeups of the clerics' fat, distorted, diabolical faces. But if Dreyer devotes long stretches to such moments of psychological confrontation, theTV men spray by for a only few seconds, lest anyone start thinking too hard. Like every other important moment, the TV-Joan trial is hyper-condensed and over-simplified—even allowing for the potentially astute observation that the interrogation ofJoan began back at Vaucouleurs, Chinon and Poitiers, leaving the Rouen trial itself a rehash worthy of abridgment. In addition, so many previous Joan films have stressed the trial, including the two best: alongside Dreyer's would be Robert Bresson's Procès de Jeanne d'Arc of 1961. Abridging the trial might have been defensible had Gernon-Duguay not short-changed all other major moments for exploringJoan's psychological depth to leave time for protracting the predictable, if with some striking special effects. Likewise, twisting history, especially in such a complex, conflicting detail-ridden story like Joan's, need not be a sin either. As Dreyer has demonstrated, simplifying the focus averts the inevitable bathos ofthe more inclusive, literally-narrative Victor Il8ARTHURIANA Fleming (1947) without sacrificing the subject's integrity. Unfortunately, although I do applaud Gernon's use ofJoan's letters and similar details under-appreciated by his predecessors, I find his episodic tinkering baffling in that his 'creativity' not only fails to edify but also misses some wonderful verbally and visually dramatic opportunities in favor ofshallower ones. Avoiding the proverbial shooting offish in a (very full, dry) barrel, let us focus on perhaps the biggest whopper: the inclusion ofCauchon in the Dauphin's Chinon entourage as the latter's 'spiritual advisor.' In truth, there was no way Cauchon, having already cast his lot with the Anglo-Burgundians eight years earlier (1420), would be frequenting the Armagnacs at Chinon for Joan's arrival in 1428, no matter how at sea Charles found himself. In fact, Joan's army would later chase Cauchon out of his diocese of Beauvais during her campaign, thus inflaming his desire for revenge. By omitting this and never clearly explaining the marvelous, tragic story ofthe Burgundian-Armagnac rift (which might have enabled audience understanding ofwhat 'divided France' actually meant) and the English control of the Sorbonne's governance ofJoan's trial, Gernon denies us insight into Cauchon's political motives masquerading as theological ones. The historical Cauchon was not the spirituallytormented cleric shown here but rather cynical; at his most...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1539
Print ISSN
1078-6279
Pages
pp. 117-119
Launched on MUSE
2015-04-01
Open Access
No
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