Joan of Arc (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc) (1999)
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Featurette-HBO First Look: Making Of The Messenger
Isolated Musical Score
Biographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1999|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (79:47)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Luc Besson|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Smoking||Yes, when Joan is burnt at the stake (!)|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Already a devout Christian at the age of 13, 'Jeanne' (Milla Jovovich) witnesses the brutal death of her sister at the hands of English soldiers during the 100 Years War. Four years later, driven by the voice of her divine conscience, she determines to meet with Charles VII (John Malkovich), the default ruler of France. Jeanne "the messenger" convinces him to let her join the campaigns against the English invaders, with a view to leading her people to eventual victory. A series of decisive wins is followed by a lull during the winter of 1429-30, prompting the newly crowned King Charles to victimize Jeanne for political ends. Captured and sold to the enemy by the Burgundians, Jeanne is convicted of heresy and burned at the stake in Rouen, May 30th 1431.
This ambitious retelling of the legend, with its blend of the documentary and the surreal, treads a fine line between success and complete disaster. Russian actor Milla Jovovich was okay as a blabbering, high-kicking alien in The Fifth Element, but here she lacks the ability to portray a far more complex and pivotal character. Instead of heart and soul, she projects noise and faux tears. The remaining cast do what they can with the dialogue, which reads well despite the tangle of accents and occasional anachronisms. Faye Dunaway, John Malkovich and Tcheky Karyo all pull their weight, as do the other supporting players. The time needed to flesh out these incidental characters is otherwise wasted on Jeanne's hallucinations, which include tedious exchanges with her Conscience, played by Dustin Hoffman on tranquilizers.
Joan of Arc's numerous flaws are partly offset by its European sensibility: that priceless, indefinable quality shared by all Continental movies. While this may be enough to sustain multiple viewings, I doubt the film will outlive Joan's 500-year legacy.
Sharpness and detail are apparent from the first frame to the last. Giddy shots of young Joan bounding through hillside flower beds are keenly rendered and beautifully photorealistic. During the amazing siege at the fort of Tourelles, every sliver of action along the perimeter is visible. Stone textures, wood finishes, costume adornments, hair styles, and spurting arterial blood are all sharply defined.
With so much simulated period lighting indoors, and overcast conditions on the battlefields outside, poor shadow detail could have crippled the transfer. Thankfully this was not the case. Blacks could have been darker, although tweaking the brightness settings on my TV and DVD player dropped them adequately without sacrificing too much detail. At the standard setting, chalky blacks were visible only in the gloomiest shots.
Needless to say, colours were saturated to the appropriate level without any bleed. The pageantry of Shakespeare in Love demanded bright, gaudy colours. Joan of Arc, depicting a demoralized country awaiting the killing stroke at the hands of marauders, required the more muted, earthen approach captured perfectly by the monotone poster art. Skin tones are uniformly excellent and costumes, when tailored with colourful fabric, glowed in a distinct yet understated manner. Top marks.
As if that wasn't enough, the transfer has no film artefacts, no compression artefacts, and not one instance of aliasing or shimmer. Some ghosting, or what may be called edge enhancement, was visible at 96:43, as a monk carries a huge cross past the French army after their victory at Tourelles. But besides that fault and the slightly grey blacks, Joan of Arc boasts one of the best transfers of an epic-length movie I have ever seen.
The layer change at 79:47 is unobtrusive.
The centre dialogue channel presents the awkward smattering of accents clearly, without distortion, and in perfect sync. ADR work was more obvious in some scenes than others.
Eric Serra contributes another energetic score, which is more orchestral than his work on The Fifth Element. His music seems to fill every corner of the soundstage when the mood calls for it. Like everything else in this movie, it usually comes across bold and strong, with good separation across the front soundstage and depth lent by the rears. At other times it stays in the background, underscoring the drama with grace and subtlety.
The surrounds are put to best use when handling 360 degree pans, the clamour and chaos of battle, hard rain and thunder, random birdsong, and a whole host of medieval sound effects. While this 5.1 track is never dull, it avoids the eclectic bombast of The Fifth Element. The sound design here is far more natural, although Joan of Arc retains the sometimes excessive subwoofer punctuations used liberally in its futuristic cousin.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nevertheless, the inclusion of any behind-the-scenes bonus is welcome as something always catches your attention. For instance, it was good to see Eric Serra at work, not to mention hearing direct descendants of Saint Joan speak reverently about their heritage.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The DVD presentation of this elegant failure is quite breathtaking, however. The fabulous video transfer suffers faults that, quite honestly, only a geek with his head craned forward and a clipboard on his lap would notice, while the audio is a fine example of what Dolby Digital 5.1 can accomplish. The extras round out a thoroughly entertaining DVD package. Viva Columbia Tristar!
|DVD||Marantz DV-7000 (European model), using RGB output|
|Display||Loewe Ergo (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.|
|Amplification||Arcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier|
|Speakers||Front: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)|