The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962, Robert Bresson)

Man, the French sure love Joan of Arc, don’t they. I guess she appeared out of the blue, giving new hope to the troops and French king, and led some decisive battles which eventually caused them to drive out the British after a century of war. It’s a good legacy, but mostly in cinema I see her being interrogated and executed, exceptions being the first halves of the Rivette and the Dumont. And here we go again… I don’t necessarily love Bresson’s choices of subject matter or his morose characters, but something about his style really gets me. This was made earlier than I realized, between Pickpocket and Balthazar – the real test will be when I get a chance to rewatch the 1970’s movies.

Not much suspense for us – the movie is based on trial records and Tarantino hadn’t invented historical revisionism yet – but even within the film, her burning is made out to be a foregone conclusion, so there’s no real point to the interrogation.

Florence Delay went on to narrate Sans Soleil, the bishop went on to nothing at all, and the Jeans… were there really four guys named Jean questioning a woman named Joan? Music by Delphine Seyrig’s brother. The last Bresson film to be shot by L-H Burel, who’d worked on Abel Gance’s J’accuse! over forty years earlier, and the first to be edited by Germaine Artus, who gives us quick fades between scenes, little downtime before dialogue starts again. Won a prize at Cannes, where it played with Cléo from 5 to 7, L’Eclisse, The Exterminating Angel, and surprisingly, Mondo Cane.