Sumptuously mounted, occasionally stirring account of the short but momentous life of Joan of Arc, which unfolded at the dangerous intersection of faith and politics. Born in 1413 in an isolated French village and raised amidst the turmoil of the
Hundred Years' War between France and England, Joan was a deeply religious child prone to visions. As a teenager she claimed God had commanded her to lead the son of France's late king, Charles VI, to the throne; Joan inspired French troops to beat back the English and saw Charles VII crowned.
Then, her usefulness outlived, the 19-year-old was abandoned by her king; she was eventually burned at the stake by the English, who hoped to discredit the French girl who had so humiliated them in battle by declaring her a witch. This film rose from the ashes of director Katherine Bigelow's
"Company of Angels," which she was developing with assistance from French filmmaker Luc Besson; Besson agitated for his girlfriend, former model Milla Jovovich, as Joan and Bigelow refused. Besson pulled out of the project and financing collapsed; he then made his own picture around the beautiful
but not especially expressive Jovovich. Besson crams most of Joan's story into this 2 1/2 hour epic, but undermines it with his grotesque sensibilities. If there was a jug-eared, chinless, snaggle-toothed supporting player he didn't cast, it was doubtless not for lack of trying. The parade of
human gargoyles does make Jovovich more ethereally beautiful still, but Bresson's vision of the miseries of 15th century life which was undeniably nasty, brutish and short comes dangerously close to the comic squalor of MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL. On the plus side, John
Malkovich is a silkily insinuating Charles VII, and Faye Dunaway is surprisingly subdued as the King's calculating mother-in-law, the inevitable harpie behind the throne.
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- Released: 1999
- Rating: R
- Review: Sumptuously mounted, occasionally stirring account of the short but momentous life of Joan of Arc, which unfolded at the dangerous intersection of faith and politics. Born in 1413 in an isolated French village and raised amidst the turmoil of the Hundred… (more)