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Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc, The
At its best, THE MESSENGER focuses on Joan. At its worst, it presents battle scenes that though distinctive in style lack punch. There is violence, but there hasn't been enough character development to elicit reactions when characters are killed, and when the occasional vaguely funny line is spoken it seems out of place and unnecessary. The most fascinating aspect of the script, which Besson co-wrote with Andrew Birkin (THE CEMENT GARDEN), is how it portrays Joan: as quite mentally unstable. Fascinating, yes, but grating after two hours of Besson's "Look at me, I'm directing!" act.
Jovovich's performance is comparable to the direction; her appearance will make you take notice--at least temporarily--but there is little substance. There are a few moments in which she fares well, particularly toward the end of the film, but otherwise her Joan fails to come across as anything but hoarse. If you want to experience the character, turn off your computer right now and go rent THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928, d. Carl Dreyer). If you want to look at Besson's interpretation of it, settle for THE MESSENGER.
The supporting cast includes John Malkovich as Charles VII, Faye Dunaway as Yolande D'Aragon, Dustin Hoffman as Joan's conscience and Tchéky Karyo (Besson's LA FEMME NIKITA) as Dunois. Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast, who has previously worked on several of Besson's movies, including THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997), which featured Jovovich.
DVD Details: Another great Columbia DVD, with a list price of $24.95. The anamorphic widescreen transfer preserves the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture is clear and well-detailed, with occasional softness. Edge-enhancement, by the way, was used. The soundtrack (English 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2-channel Dolby Surround) falls short of excellence, as well, though the dialogue is audible and understandable. The DVD, sporting an International Version label on the cover, features a few minutes of footage excised from the US theatrical release.
Supplementary materials include an HBO First Look special, The Messenger: The Search for the Real Joan of Arc (about 24 min. long) that focuses more on history than the making-of and behind-the-scenes footage that viewers of First Look's are accustomed to, theatrical trailers for THE MESSENGER, RUN LOLA RUN, Besson's THE PROFESSIONAL, and the art-house hit ORLANDO, and the isolated score. The Eric Serra score is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. English subtitles, interactive menus, talent files and a 2-page production booklet round things out.