Cinema: A Stake in History

Trial of Joan of Arc. With the exception of Carl Dreyer's silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), the numerous films about the martyred Maid of Orleans have contributed very little to art and less to the box office. The subject thus seems a natural for French Director Robert Bresson (Diary of a Country Priest, Pickpocket), who for more than two decades has been making austere, praiseworthy, but unpopular movies. Bresson's treatment of the Trial of Joan is characteristically ascetic; but it is also quintessential history, unique and timeless, graced with a master's touch.

Almost defiantly literal, the film at...

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