“The Trial of Joan of Arc” (1962) at Film Forum (Jan 10)

by on January 9, 2012Posted in: Essay

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Tuesday Editor’s Pick: The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962)

by on January 4, 2012Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Tue Jan 10 at 1:15, 2:40, 4:05, 5:30, 7:00 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]


Film Forum treats NYC to a complete Robert Bresson retrospective, Jan 6-19, followed by a one-week run of his metaphysical suspense film, A Man Escaped.


Made in between bona fide masterpieces Pickpocket and Au Hazard Balthazar, and long impossible to see, The Trial of Joan Arc has long been regarded as a failure, or Bresson’s weakest film, but critical opinion on it is beginning to change. Stay tuned for an Alt Screen feature on the film, coming soon.


Meanwhile, Melissa Anderson for the Village Voice:

Bresson’s 1962 film — the most underrated of the director’s 13 features (and, at 65 minutes, his shortest) — Tony Pipolo points out, “launched a decade devoted to female protagonists” (and the careers of Anne Wiazemsky and Dominique Sanda). By looking anew at The Trial of Joan of Arc, made in between the works widely considered Bresson’s supreme masterpieces (1959’s Pickpocket and 1966’s Au Hasard Balthazar), Delay, a 20-year-old university student at the time, emerges as one of the most perfect of the director’s “models”: a steadfast teenage saint whose stoic countenance is punctured once, at the film’s beginning, by a burst of tears.
Bresson rejected acting; he wanted his nonprofessional performers simply to be, part of his notion of film as a pure art form. The script for Joan of Arc adheres quite closely to the actual record of the trial and of the rehabilitation process 25 years later: Joan is interrogated and taken back to her cell repeatedly, the back-and-forth of the inquisition and the clang of Joan’s shackles providing the film’s rhythm. Delay, her limpid eyes frequently downcast, isn’t “unexpressive” but unsentimental; though austere, she is unwavering, resolute. In an interview with Pipolo, Delay, who would go on to write novels, narrate Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983), and be elected to the Académie Française in 2000, explains that she thought of Joan “as an intrepid individual with a mission to perform.” She gave her director what he wanted, but gives audiences more: a new way to access and appreciate history’s most remarkable adolescent visionary.

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