Joan of Arc:The Messenger (Blu-ray) (1999)

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Released 5-Sep-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Historical Epic Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 159:42 (Case: 148)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Luc Besson
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Milla Jovovich
John Malkovich
Faye Dunaway
Dustin Hoffman
Pascal Greggory
Vincent Cassel
Tcheky Karyo
Richard Ridings
Desmond Harrington
Timothy West
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Eric Serra


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     1420. France is at war with England; the French Crown Prince (Dauphin) Charles has been declared illegitimate and the English and their Burgundian allies rule most of northern France. Joan is a young, illiterate peasant girl, happy and pious, attending confession twice a day although she has little to confess but admitting to the priest that she hears voices who tell her what to do. Her world changes forever when English soldiers burn her village and rape and murder her older sister. Eight years later Joan (Milla Jovovich) has started to build a reputation as a woman who has visions. She comes to the Dauphin (John Malkovich) and maintains that she is a messenger from God. Joan tells Charles he is the legitimate King of France and that if he gives Joan an army she will defeat the English who are currently besieging the French town of Orleans.

     Joan has no military knowledge but, rather miraculously and against the wishes of his advisers but not of his formidable mother-in-law Yolande D’Aragon (Faye Dunaway), Charles provides Joan with an army. She goes to Orleans where she joins the forces led by Count Dunois (Tcheky Karyo) and quickly gains the respect of her fighting men including La Hire (Richard Ridings) and Aulon (Desmond Harrington), who becomes her closest friend. In a series of battles the English are defeated and the siege lifted. The Dauphin is crowned King Charles VII and favours an accommodation with the English but Joan wants to fight on. She unsuccessfully attempts to capture Paris then at Compiegne Joan is betrayed and captured by the Burgundians, who sell her to the English. After a mockery of a trial conducted by Cauchon (Timothy West) Joan is burned as a heretic in the market place at Rouen.

     Joan of Arc: The Messenger is director Luc Besson’s take on the legend. It is a sprawling, opulent epic running almost 160 minutes with some beautiful sets, costumes and landscapes, brutal and bloody battles, political machinations, a loud and enveloping audio and a swelling and intense score by Eric Serra. Most critics considered the film a mess and pointed the finger at the script (by Besson and Andrew Birkin) and the acting of Besson’s then wife, Ukrainian born supermodel / actress Milla Jovovich.

     Jovovich, now a fixture in the Resident Evil film franchise, came to notice when Besson cast her in The Fifth Element (1997) where she had only a few words of dialogue and was only required to look good in skimpy, almost non-existent, costumes. Joan of Arc: The Messenger was a different proposition and required a range that was beyond her, especially as the film leaves it open whether Joan really heard messages from God or was a troubled woman with a mixed grasp on reality. Apparently Kathryn Bigelow was due to direct the film but withdrew when Besson insisted that Jovovich be cast. Jovovich’s earlier scenes with Malkovich work reasonably well however the scenes towards the end with her “Conscience” (Dustin Hoffman) come across as contrived and silly, although the script does her no favours. For much of the middle section of the picture Jovovich either looks confused or yells but amid a group of actors, including Tcheky Karyo and Richard Ridings, who play their characters as larger than life, she is not particularly out of step.

     Joan of Arc: The Messenger is spectacle and style over substance. It is long and how accurate it is to history I will leave to others. The section of the film from Joan’s first approach to Charles until the relief of Orleans and Charles’ coronation, full of battles and spectacle, is interesting and speeds by. But from then the film seems to lose its way; despite its long running time it still obscures how and why Joan fell from favour while the sections where her “Conscience” questions Joan’s faith feel contrived and like a different film. Yet, for all that, Joan of Arc: The Messenger is spectacular to look at, features some chaotic battles and Jovovich is not the disaster some have maintained. If the whole does not quite hang together, there is still a lot to enjoy.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Joan of Arc: The Messenger is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a richly detailed film with sets, costumes, and the countryside looking wonderful. The dirt and blood on faces is clear, the chain mail and armour nicely detailed. Blacks and shadow detail are very good, brightness and contrast consistent and while skin tones occasionally look a bit reddish, they are mostly fine.

     Some ghosting against trees is evident but marks and other artefacts are not present.

     There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
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Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The feature audio is English DTS-MA HD 5.1.

     This is a loud and aggressive audio track. Dialogue is generally easy to hear despite some of the accents and the surrounds and rears are constantly in use for music, crowd voices, animals in the woods, birds, rain and horses’ hooves. During the battle sequences the audio is very enveloping with arrows, yells, the clash of weapons and projectiles flying throughout the sound stage. The subwoofer provided appropriate bass to battles, music, horses and weather effects.

     The score by Eric Serra was swelling, lush, intense and occasionally intrusive. One notices it for sure.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Madman Propaganda (8:54)

    The only extras are trailers for Beauty and the Beast, The Fifth Element, Melancholia and La Femme Nikita.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US Region Free Blu-ray of Joan of Arc: The Messenger, called there The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc adds dubs in French, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai and includes a diverse range of subtitles, including English, but is also without extras.

Summary

     I enjoy historical epics and I got more out of Joan of Arc: The Messenger than I expected to, given its critical reception. It is epic in length and scope and is certainly spectacular and while Milla Jovovich’s range is limited she is not as bad as some suggest.

     The video and audio are very good.

     The HD video and loss-less audio would be a step up from the DVD which was released over 10 years ago and reviewed on this site here. The extras on the DVD (making of and isolated music score) have disappeared, which is a pity, although the US Blu-ray is also extra free.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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