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The Passion of Joan of Arc(1928)
With its stunning camerawork and striking compositions, Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc convinced the world that movies could be art. Renée Falconetti gives one of the greatest performances ever recorded on film, as the young maiden who died for God and France.
For more about The Passion of Joan of Arc and the The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray release, see the The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on November 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Starring: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, André Berley
» See full cast & crew
The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, November 27, 2012
Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer's "La passion de Jeanne d'Arc" a.k.a "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on this release include a restoration demonstration and the "Lo Duca" Version of the film. The film is presented in 20fps and 24fps versions with soundtracks by Japanese silent film composer Mie Yanashita and American avant-garde musician Loren Connors. With optional English subtitles for each version. The release also arrives with a 100-page illustrated booklet. Region-B "locked".
The camera constantly studies Joan's (Maria Falconetti) eyes. At times she looks straight into it, other times she looks up. It seems like she is listening. She often cries. When questioned, she insists that God spoke to her.
In the beginning of the trial the judges seem confident that they could break Joan's will. Like wolves that smell blood they gather around her, feeling empowered. They are convinced that they have the right questions that will deliver the right answers. It is only a matter of time before they congratulate each other and declare victory.
But Joan's words confuse them. And then anger them. One of the judges suggests that they will have to lure a confession out of her – even if they have to torture her. Pain can destroy anyone, the judges are convinced, even believers.
After a short recess they question Joan again, uncertain why she would continue to insist that God has spoken to her and promised to free her. They want to know how, and why, and when. Some of the judges are already barely able to contain their anger, knowing that their tactics have failed, feeling threatened. Others are just stunned that a young woman would be so strong. A few seem frightened. What if she speaks the truth?
There is fear now amongst the judges. They want a quick confession, signed by Joan, so that they could declare victory and move on. At the stake, with her eyes full of tears, she agrees. Some of the judges look relieved – they have won, the Church has won. For now.
There is hardly anything one could write about Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc that has not already been written by someone else. It is an incredibly simple, enormously powerful film, one that it is impossible to forget. It is a silent film but one that speaks a beautiful cinematic language anyone can understand.
Falconetti's performance is legendary. There is hardly another performance in the annals of cinema where so much is accomplished with a single look, a simple move. There is a genuine sense of purity here that effectively transcends cinematic boundaries.
The second half of the film is so intense that at times it becomes claustrophobic. The disappointment, pain, and desperation are incredibly overwhelming. As the judges send Joan to the stake, it does feel like a precious life will be lost - a real life. The images are absolutely devastating.
The 20fps and 24fps versions of the film arrive with two different soundtracks. The first is a more traditional soundtrack by Japanese silent film composer Mie Yanashita. In it elegant piano themes constantly overlap each other and compliment the visuals. The second soundtrack is by American avant-garde guitarist Loren Connors. The music is enormously dark and very intense, at times even unsettling, perhaps even apocalyptic. It blends long vibrations, thick howls, and even some distortions.
The Passion of Joan of Arc was lensed by the great cinematographer Rudolph Mate, who also collaborated with Carl Theodor Dreyer on his legendary film Vampyr (1932).
The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted 1080p transfers for each version of the film included on this disc, Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
There are three different versions of the film on this disc:
1. 20fps silent version with optional piano score performed by Japanese silent film composer Mie Yanashita. (97 min).
2. 24fps silent version with optional score by American avant-garde musician Loren Connors. (81 min).
3. The "Lo Duca" version with alternative edit/narration and soundtrack. (78 min).
The screencaptures offered with this reeview of The Passion of Joan of Arc are from the 24fps version of the film.
The basics are strong. A direct comparison with Criterion's DVD release of the film immediately reveals substantial improvements in every single area we address in our reviews. The many close-ups with Falconetti and the judges reveal very good detail, and at times strong depth (see screencapture #5). Clarity is also substantially improved. What pleases the most, however, is the absence of the video noise, sharpening and blockiness that are present on the DVD release. The most substantial improvements are during the final third of the film, where Falconetti is observed by various people. Grain has been retained, but during the restoration of the film some of it has also been toned down, quite possibly while removing scratches and debris and repairing damages (see screencaptures #2 and 19). Detail isn't seriously compromised. The balance between the whites, grays, and blacks is convincing. This being said, many larger scratches, debris, and even small vertical lines still remain. I assume that removing the majority of them completely with current digital tools without seriously affecting the integrity of the film is virtually impossible. Light but at times somewhat distracting edge flicker also remains. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review. To sum it all up, this is indeed a competent presentation of this classic film that represents a serious upgrade in quality over previous DVD releases of the film in different regions. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 20fps and 24fps version come with standard LPCM 2.0 (and Dolby Digital 2.0) tracks. The "Lo Duca" version of the film also arrives with an LPCM 2.0. Danish intertitles are present on the 20fps and 24fps versions and optional English subtitles are included with all three versions.
The lossless tracks for the 20fps and 24fps versions of the film are outstanding. The Loren Connors soundtrack, in particular, gives the film an entirely new aura -- depth and fluidity are simply wonderful. Even the tiniest vibration flows with impressive clarity (think of very thick and very well projecting pizzicato). Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere here often rivals the one KTL's experimental score creates in Victor Sjostrom's The Phantom Carriage.
Mie Yanashita's traditional score also boasts strong depth and fluidity, but overall dynamic movement is slightly less impressive. The soundtrack for the "Lo Duca" version often struggles with moderate to heavy background hiss and even minor pops.
The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This is a very fine release of Carl Theodor Dreyer's legendary film The Passion of Joan or Arc. It is certainly the very best presentation I have seen to date. If you are yet to experience the film, now is a good time to do so. If you reside in a Region-A territory and cannot yet play Region-B "locked" discs, you will probably have to wait for the rumored upcoming Criterion release. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Passion of Joan of Arc: Other Editions
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The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Passion of Joan of Arc Blu-ray - September 21, 2012
British distributors Eureka Entertainment have officially announced and detailed their upcoming standard and Limited Edition Dual Format SteelBook editions of Carl Theodor Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), starring Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain and ...
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