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JOAN OF ARC

SYNOPSIS:
As a deeply religious young girl, Jeanne díArc (Milla Jovovich) witnesses the brutal death of her sister at the hands of English soldiers. As she grows older, Jeanne begins to hear voices and see visions urging her to take up arms to "deliver France from her enemies". She rides to see the Dauphin (John Malkovich) who, although initially reluctant, agrees after the urging of his mother-in-law Yolande DíAragon (Faye Dunaway) to give her an army. Her first, and seemingly impossible, task is to try to raise the siege of Orleans by the English. The fervour of the young woman inspires the troops to an unlikely victory. But then she comes face to face with far tougher hurdles.

"Exciting French director Luc Besson takes on the story of Franceís national heroine Jeanne díArc (Joan of Arc) with characteristic flair - some scene transitions are breathtaking. But there are, unfortunately, some serious flaws in this epic film. The most glaring of these is the character of Jeanne herself. The traditional story ascribes her "voices" to either a deeply religious experience or to a miracle. However, some modern writers have suggested they were signs of mental illness. The latter theory is taken up wholeheartedly by the film. While, in a sense this is fine, as no one can now be sure of the reality, itís very limiting. Bessonís Jeanne is, well, basically a nut; things arenít helped by Milla Jovovichís one-note performance. Her wide eyed raving, whether sheís charging into battle or talking to someone in private, leaves no room for shades of grey in the character. In fact, sheís portrayed as so obviously mad, itís difficult to see how anyone was inspired by her; especially those asked to follow her into combat. The lack of subtlety leaves little room for the audience to even empathise, let alone sympathise, with her. As a result, the film, ends up being a rather cold and clinical experience in costume drama. Ironically, Cauchon, traditionally the bad guy of the heresy trial, is treated with considerable sympathy, portrayed as a good man caught up in a bad situation. Overall, perhaps because of expectations, Joan of Arc is a disappointment - a great looking (often spectacular) one; but a disappointment nonetheless."
David Edwards

"Normally Iím a fan of Luc Besson, but he really goes into the deep end with this one. Turning Joan of Arc into an action blockbuster may be an OK idea, but Milla Jovovic in the title part has less credibility than the stars of Xena: Warrior Princess. The attempt at an authentically mucky and grim portrayal of the Middle Ages is doomed as soon as you see this pouting siren gamely waving a sword above her head and screaming into the camera. Whole reels seem devoted to her breathless emoting Ė trembling defiantly, eyes bulging, gulping back tears. Itís an awful performance but you love her anyway. Besson hasnít totally lost his talent as an action director, but the bloody battle scenes, shot mainly in pounding closeup, are a lot more chaotic and grandiose than his best work. The terrible acting and lame dialogue (ĎCalm down, Joan! Stop getting so upset about everything!í) suggest that the film is best seen as a camp hoot, though there are only a few unintentional laughs. Bessonís French action films are typically both more sincere and more ridiculous than comparable Hollywood productions: here the weirdest scenes come near the end, when Joan suffers a crisis of faith and keeps having surrealist visions of Jesus, and Dustin Hoffman turns up as the Voice of God (or something). The overall effect is pretty numbing: thereís a basic unpleasantness to Bessonís concept of an innocent, beautiful saviour who stays pure despite being dragged through endless scenes of horror and degradation. When you think about it, itís more or less the same story as The Fifth Element. There are also some similarities with the arthouse hit Breaking The Waves, suggesting once again that Besson is Lars von Trierís evil twin."
Jake Wilson

"If, like me, you know and love the work of French auteur Luc Besson - the man responsible for cult hits (Subway, The Big Blue, La Femme Nikita, The Professional), and close shaves (The Fifth Element) - you'll moan your way through Joan of Arc's tragic 158 minutes. Afterwards, you'll mourn the loss of his eighth - and worst - feature. Put it down to the fact we're currently "enjoying" a renaissance of Joan's legend, mostly induced by the recent discovery of a mural in France that depicted her as a blonde, not a brunette. If that bombshell revelation is enough to incite a sprawl of Joan movies (last year's TV movie starring Leelee Sobieski, and due later this year The Virgin Warrior, starring Mira Sorvino), then think of this; didn't Milla Jovovich have orange hair in The Fifth Element? Isn't she the poster girl for L'Oreal? Hmmm... If you suspect sexual politics and looking good is at the heart of this film, you're right. Besson's casting of his own wife in back-to-back features is indulgent. Jovovich was right for The Fifth Element, but her casting as Joan corrupts the legend by transforming it into a "look at me" spectacle. And not a very good spectacle. Endless turgid scenes have the actress breathing heavy, sweating profusely, and looking wide-eyed in distress, elation, or questioning. It's psuedoexpressionist overkill. The result is that Besson's Joan becomes an iconic babe whose burning at the stake makes her nothing but hotter. What's more, the putrid dialogue from Besson and Andrew Birkin had the entire audience in stitches several times. The F-word is used (despite not emerging in language until the 1500s) and I doubt whether the phrase "she's nuts!" or the American slang "whatever!" was around in the 1400s. So what were you doing when you were 16? Joan of Arc, an uneducated, untrained 16 year-old peasant girl - and virgin to boot - was heeding the voice of God and leading her people to victory against the invading English army. Besson's sexualised movie sensationalises the legend into a contentious, overly long piece of poorly rendered postmodern wanking. I'm not even going into Dustin Hoffman's role. We are not amused."
Shannon J. Harvey



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

See interview with

MILLA JOVOVICH

JOAN OF ARC (MA)
(France)

CAST: Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Dustin Hoffman, Pascal Gregory, Vincent Cassel, Tcheky Karyo, Richard Ridings, Desmond Harrington, Timothy West

DIRECTOR: Luc Besson

PRODUCER: Patrice Ledoux

SCRIPT: Andrew Birkin and Luc Besson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thierry Arbogast,

EDITOR: Sylvie Landra

MUSIC: Eric Serra

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugues Tissandier

RUNNING TIME: 158 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 3, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: August 23, 2000 (Rental)

SELLTHROUGH: February 5, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Home Entertainment







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