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Author Topic: The Passion of Joan of Arc
Claus Harding
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1149
From: Washington DC
Registered: Oct 2006

 - posted January 24, 2010 12:04 AM      Profile for Claus Harding   Email Claus Harding   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Review of "The Passion of Joan of Arc" (1928, Carl Th. Dreyer.)
4-400ft feature (silent) by Glenn Photo Supply.
Photos from Super-8 print.


It's very difficult to add anything to what has been said over the years about this film, which many consider the greatest ever made.

The 1431 trial of Joan by the English provisional government is notable for the fact that the original court records exist. Dreyer used the transcripts extensively, which in a way gives the viewer a feeling of watching a "documentary from the Middle Ages", however stylized the visuals.

And what visuals. The human face has never been used better than in this film. Renee Falconetti's huge, devastating eyes combined with Rudolph Mate's off-kilter camera angles are spellbinding. The judges loom like monsters, yet are also seen as having some hidden sympathy for her from time to time.
Sets are glimpsed, but rarely seen fully, and the cutting serves to re-inforce the crushing tension of the CUs.


One very touching moment comes early on, when Joan is asked her age. Her answer: "19...I think." Suddenly she is no longer the icon, the legend, the demon, but a simple young village girl with very little education.


The psychological struggle between Joan and the judges is quite contemporary. The court members may have brutal means standing by, but they are also good at mind games. Joan time and time again turns this against them, even as she knows death awaits.


This came on 4 very full 400-ft reels, without a score. I remember Glenn Photo as one of the suppliers from the '70es, but I don't know their history.

"JoA"'s original material has had a horrific life; it's a miracle the film still exists. The negatives burned, and it wasn't until 1981 that a fairly complete print was found in a closet in a mental institution in Norway.

I don't know when Glenn's print came out; 1600ft at 18fps is getting into the ballpark of the runtime of the restoration. I have seen the Norway print in 35mm and also the DVD, so only a side-by-side screening with the disc will tell if anything is missing.

Overall, I think Glenn did a fine job with some notoriously difficult material.
Between Mate's demanding lighting and the contrast swings from different prints, the 8mm holds excellent sharpness and grain throughout, with good skin detail.
There is plenty of damage along the way, pits and negative scratches, but most of it is definitely in the source stocks.

The only odd thing is that the (original) opening credits and the inter-titles are skewed to the right of the frame, sometimes cutting off a letter or two, but the visuals appear centered, without any framelines to the left to suggest the shift. But, hats off to Glenn, a good effort.


Silent films, let alone very dark ones like "Joan" are, to some, an acquired taste. Getting 'past' the conventions of silent film making can be a hurdle.
However, "Joan" is perhaps the most universal film ever made.
Any human being who has ever been unjustly accused can understand this one, no language needed except that of the face and body.
And maybe that is the true power of this masterwork.


"Why are there shots of deserts in a scene that's supposed to take place in Belgium during the winter?" (Review of 'Battle of the Bulge'.)

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Dino Everette
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1535
From: Long Beach, CA USA
Registered: Dec 2008

 - posted January 24, 2010 01:35 AM      Profile for Dino Everette     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Claus a brilliant review, and I believe Passion of Joan of Arc is definitely one of the silent films that is the easiest to digest for modern audiences especially thanks to Falconetti's once in a lifetime performance.

I also love that Dreyers' obsessive attention to detail led to the building of monumentally sized sets which are rarely and sometimes never seen in the film.....That is so ANTI-Griffith and DeMille who tended to make the vast and hugeness of such sets a primary focal point.

I appreciate you reviewing this, and might have to look for a print as I have usually been disappointed by Glenn Photo supply small gauge prints.

"You're too Far Out Miss Lawrence"

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Osi Osgood
Film God

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From: Mountian Home, ID.
Registered: Jul 2005

 - posted January 24, 2010 08:31 AM      Profile for Osi Osgood   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
A Very good review Claus!

I am al,ways astounded by what has actually made it onto Super 8. Its a pity that Blackhawk never had the chance to release this. I love that screenshot of one of the judges. You captured a very good shot there.

Once again, great job!

"All these moments will be lost in time, just like ... tears, in the rain. "

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Stewart John Boyle
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 170
From: Glasgow,Scotland
Registered: Oct 2009

 - posted January 24, 2010 11:39 AM      Profile for Stewart John Boyle   Email Stewart John Boyle   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Judge screenshot reminded me of the judges in Superman,I wonder if it was homage by Richard Donner? [Smile]
He He

I`ve, seen things you people wouldn`t believe,

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Richard Bock
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 239
From: El Cerrito,CA,USA
Registered: Jan 2010

 - posted January 29, 2010 06:17 PM      Profile for Richard Bock   Author's Homepage   Email Richard Bock   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Beautiful stills chosen. Thanks. I happened to see a Dreyer film the other night, Vampyr. An incredible movie, like Passion of Joan of Arc, for the ages.

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Stewart McSporran
Master Film Handler

Posts: 272
From: Glasgow, Scotland
Registered: Nov 2003

 - posted January 31, 2010 02:38 PM      Profile for Stewart McSporran   Email Stewart McSporran   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Fantastic film. What I noticed most about the DVD release was how sharp the focus was and how fine the grain. Did that come over in the 8mm print?


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Claus Harding
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1149
From: Washington DC
Registered: Oct 2006

 - posted January 31, 2010 04:06 PM      Profile for Claus Harding   Email Claus Harding   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 

The DVD I believe was mastered from the 'Norway print' which was the more recently discovered, finer-grain positive that served for all subsequent releases, and yes, that looks very good restored.

I am fairly certain the Glenn print came from the earlier, more damaged, material as there were some jumps in generations in the 8mm print as well as a fair amount of source damage.

However, overall, given what they had to work with, I can't fault Glenn too much. The print mostly has good sharpness, down to skin detail level, and overall I can't see anything that is to blame more on the print than it is on the master material. The film runs consistenly, within these limitations.


"Why are there shots of deserts in a scene that's supposed to take place in Belgium during the winter?" (Review of 'Battle of the Bulge'.)

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