Procès de Jeanne d’Arc [1962]

9/10 | 27.Apr.12
Procès de Jeanne d’Arc

DIRECTOR: Robert Bresson | WRITERS: Robert Bresson, Pierre Champion | CAST: Florence Delay, Jean-Claude Fourneau, Roger Honorat, Marc Jacquier, Jean Gillibert, Michel Herubel | France

Procès de Jeanne d’Arc is one of the Robert Bresson films I’ve most wanted to see since I’ve become a latter-day Bresson nutcase. One of the nice things about coming to Bresson so recently — until this year I’d only seen Journal d’un curé de campagne and Au hasard Balthazar, once each 30 years ago, and I liked them but wasn’t crazy about them — and without really having read any serious critical writing, is that I’m reacting mostly with my gut. Or so I pretend to myself and I try to tell myself that’s a good thing.

Procès de Jeanne d’Arc is a typically spare, stripped down, emotionless Bresson film with dialogue drawn almost entirely from the trial records and acted by non-professionals who are deliberately not acting. I loved it. I’m used to the not-so-submerged homoeroticism in Bresson’s films — in Journal d’un curé de campagne and Au hasard Balthazar, for instance, and pretty much out in the open in Pickpocket — but I wasn’t quite prepared for a Joan of Arc who is unmistakably a lesbian. Not a caricature lesbian, but a lesbian. And not only that, but the two, maybe three, French priests who are even arguably on Joan’s side pinged my gaydar pretty hard. Not the actors themselves, but the roles they played, how they interacted with her and to her situation. But that’s just one part of the movie and I’ve only seen it once and there’s so much else jammed into it that I’m going to need a few more viewings to really get a handle on it. Florence Delay — in the credits here as Florence Carrez — gives an exceptionally fine performance; she’s alive on film in the way that “natural” (as opposed to manufactured) movie stars are: the camera adores her. A very provisional 9/10.

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