La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc

France (1928)
Dir: Carl Th. Dreyer

Cast: Falconetti, Eugene Sylvain, Antonin Artaud

Regarded by Dreyer as his cinematic masterpiece, this acclaimed silent movie strives to interpret and depict the agonising trial and execution of St. Joan of Arc using extracts from a 15th-century transcript. The camera hovers disquietingly over the cast of her unpleasant and often conniving inquisitors, but always focuses only on Joan's tormented face, whose wide and expressive eyes retain a conviction beyond most people's understanding, eyes which see beyond the world. It is a painful film to watch as her tormenters in the Church conspire to get her to submit to a confession that she had been diabolically inspired. The actual trial of St. Joan (an astounding performance by Falconetti!) took over a week but in this claustrophobic and harrowing film, her torment seems to span only a few hours or days at most. Remarkable for its day, the director does not flinch from showing the gruesomeness of her torment, something that would have been invariably sanitised by modern-day film-makers. An incredibly powerful and unsettling film where one can also watch the absurdist playwright Artaud in an ambivalent role as one of Joan's inquisitors and confessors.

Rating: 7.0

The Piano

New Zealand (1993)
Dir: Jane Campion

Cast: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin

An enigmatic mute woman, Ada leaves her native Scotland with her little daughter to enter an arranged marriage in New Zealand with a settler Stewart. Married life is turbulent from the beginning and Ada is plunged into despair when she is deprived of her beloved piano in her new home, which is sold to another settler George. George agrees to let Ada play her piano at his house, but at a price - in return for somewhat peverted sexual favours.

Thus an uneasy and eventually intimate relationship ensues between the two, and when Stewart discovers this infidelity, they have to flee. I found this movie rather anti-feminist; a mute woman who eventually rediscovers herself and even learns to speak and integrate into normal society through a lover who started off objectifying and exploiting her. An unsettling experience, and certainly not romantic in my opinion.

Rating: 5.5

Le Placard
(The Closet)

France (2001)
Dir: Francis Veber

Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte, Michele Laroque, Michel Aumont

Francois Pignon, your everyday loser and dull man, is about to lose his accountancy job at his beloved plant. His teenage son is ignoring him for his "uncoolness" and he is still besotted with his estranged wife who refuses to answer his phone calls. In a desperate bid to keep his job, his well-meaning friend and neighbour hatches a plan - Francois will pretend to be gay. The ploy works as the company (which manufactures condoms) decides it would be bad publicity and politically incorrect to fire a homosexual. Suddenly with his newfound identity, his life begins to change irrevocably.... lots of laughs all around, a charming and lighthearted comedy.

Rating: 6.5


USA (1986)
Dir: Oliver Stone

Cast: Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe, Tom Berenger, Forest Whitaker

This war drama about the loss of innocence in battle follows young and raw Pvt Taylor around his first combat assignment in Vietnam. It depicts his painful transformation from a callow youth to a cynical, traumatised and shell-shocked veteran. He witnesses the waste and horrors of war with his motley comrades and is finally forced into a moral dilemma when his squad is ordered by the sergeant to massacre some defenseless villagers in battle. This is arguably one of the most powerful war dramas on the Vietnam conflict ever made.

Rating: 7.5


UK/USA (1985)
Dir: Frank Schepisi

Cast: Meryl Streep, Charles Dance, John Gielgud, Tracy Ullmann, Sam Neill, Sting

A young woman works for the French Resistance during WWII and after that, finds herself trapped in a dull desk job in London, with an equally dull but well-meaning diplomat boyfriend. Unable to adjust herself to the banalities of everyday life after the war, she is driven to delusional madness while hankering for that 'something more' exciting and meaningful in life, and longing to recapture the frisson, idealism and optimism of her wartime days. Brilliant dialogue and exceptional performances from all the cast.

Rating: 7.5

Il Postino

Italy (1994)
Dir: Michael Radford

Cast: Philippe Noiret, Massimo Troisi, Maria Grazia Cucinotta

A barely literate fisherman Mario is hired as a postman to deliver letters to the exiled Chilean poet Pablo Neruda in the isolated Italian island. He strikes up an unlikely friendship with the poet and when he falls for the local beauty Beatrice, he enlists Neruda's help in writing poems to woo his love. A rather slight and pleasant film which I felt, was grossly overrated when it won so many awards.

Rating: 6.0

Copyright ArtemisWorks 2002