Shame about Joan of Arc
I feel a lot of shame about my reaction to what is one of the – consistently – top ten films of all time.
I have written my observations (in an essay of sorts) and they are ready to publish but I’m reticent because they reveal a side of me that is stupid and – possibly illustrates that I’m – unintellectual.
I approached La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc as I do all films, but with a degree more excitement than normal.
I have an approach to watching movies which gives me the best chance to like a film that is possible, which also is (I believe) as the director intended:
I watch it with the mindset that it’s going to be good, funny, fantastic, brilliant
At the very least I think there will be many good things about it in all or many of the departments. Whether it is Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Star Wars 8 or Transformers 5 (I see the hopeful hits and the near-misses), or features George Clooney, Mel Gibson or Angeline Jolie (the stars), or has a Coen Brothers or Joss Whedon script (the unwritten stars), or is directed by Buster Keaton, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Chaplin or Murnau (the authors): I give it every chance to draw me in and embrace me. When I see every film, my thought – every time – as the film studio logo comes up on the screen is,
“I’m going to like this!”
It’s A Coen Bros. film – I’m going to love this
Ron Howard-Orson Welles-Steven Spielberg hardly ever make a bad film, surely, this can’t be as bad as they say.
My rules if my life
I see it on a big screen
If you’re watching 2001 (1968) or Lawrence of Arabia (1963) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) on a television screen with (or without – it’s not what was intended either way) advertisements, that’s like looking at one of Monet’s water-lilies painting with eye-catching images of Coca Cola, McDonalds, Target, Walmart and PlayStation breaking up the continuity of the painting.
I see it in the context of the film-going public
Whether it’s Hall Pass (2011) or Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016), Justice League (2017) or The Mountain Between Us (2017), La La Land (2016) or Finding Nemo (2003), I watch it with an audience. In fact, the audience has so affected my viewing of certain films that I have an indelible stamp imprinted on my memory of that film. Examples are Die Hard, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Identity Thief, Old Dogs, The Towering Inferno, Child’s Play, The Final Conflict, Carrie, Jingle All the Way and Reservoir Dogs. This might not be an amazing thing but films which were either really good or really bad leave the name and location of the cinema imprinted in my brain, forever – because I saw it with an audience.
Partie de campagn 1936
I went back to one of the first couple of Jean Renoir films I watched a few weeks ago. It was the one that he shot in 1936 but never completed. Nothing I’ve read has explained why it was unfinished, but I do remember reading that it was not available for a number of years until someone collected all the footage and made something out of it and commissioned a score to be composed.
I remember thinking that it was very natural, beautifully acted, containing some beautiful location camerawork by and on a river. I’m not sure why, but something drew me back to watch it again. So, I went to the library and borrowed it again thinking it would be interesting to watch it now, having watched nine or ten Jean Renoir films, most of them made since 1936.
It is such a delight. The music has a lot to do with it. The score adds a great deal of life to the film, making it bubble over with joy and beauty.
Of all the photography that I’ve watched in his films, and there have been a lot of excellent images, this is one of the most otherworldly. It’s kind of makes nature appear metaphysical and the composed frame at times is amongst the most beautiful images I’ve seen, whether photographs or paintings or drawings.
This film which only runs for 39 minutes is one of the most delightful I have seen, and speaks to me more than La Règle, Ilusion, The River, The Southerner or La bête humaine. Along with La bête I think Partie has the most beautifully composed images of any of the Renoir films I’ve seen.
This version I saw was meticulously prepared and transferred and the images were far above the standard of, for instance the BFI’s DVD release of La Règle. Oh, what I would give to see the Criterion version!