Redeeming Features

Besson's conception takes a bit from the no-frills four-hour Jeanne la Pucelle that Jacques Rivette directed with Sandrine Bonnaire in 1993. As in the Rivette film, Joan is baffled by the carnage she precipitates, while her inquisitors seem to regard her worst sin to be cross-dressing. (After Boys Don't Cry, it's impossible not to make the connection to Brandon Teena.) But, unlike Rivette, Besson seems to have no sense that Joan herself was giving a performance. The lanky, lush-lipped Jovovich appears to be in a state of permanent arousal-not the least when she models her form-fitting chain-mail ensemble.

Inexplicable as it is, the Joan of Arc story encourages contemplation of ourselves as a species. The Messenger is more apt to prompt meditation on the nature of show business. Although nominally French, the movie was made in English with a cast of high-powered Hollywood actors, including a petulantly queeny John Malkovich (who now seems permanently possessed by Being J.M.), an imperiously queeny Faye Dunaway, and, most bizarrely, Dustin Hoffman in a burnoose. In a conceit worthy of Kevin Smith, Hoffman plays Joan's "conscience," appearing to her in prison as a sort of Old Testament shrink who, after explaining that she saw visions because she wanted to see them, answers most of her questions with his own.

  • Cine-psychoanalysts have had ample material in Roman Polanski's notorious Macbeth, produced by Hugh Hefner in 1971 and back for a week at Film Forum in an excellent new 35mm print. The movie was Polanski's first after the Manson Family butchered his pregnant wife; it hardly seems coincidental the director was drawn to the most murderous tale in English literature. Macbeth is awash in blood and other bodily fluids. The slaughter of Lady Macduff and her children is here given extraordinary weight-as are all other usually offstage killings ordered by Macbeth.
    Somewhere between Wings of Desire and Mystery Men: Affleck and Damon in Dogma
    photo: Darren Michaels
    Somewhere between Wings of Desire and Mystery Men: Affleck and Damon in Dogma


    Written and directed by Kevin Smith
    A Lions Gate Film release
    Opens November 12

    The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
    Written and directed by Luc Besson
    A Columbia release
    Opens November 12

    Directed by Roman Polanski
    Adapted by Polanski and Kenneth Tynan from the play by William Shakespeare
    A Columbia Pictures Repertory release
    At Film Forum November 12 through 18

    Polanski provocatively envisioned the Macbeths as a hot young couple (Jon Finch and Francesca Annis) but, killer hippies aside, he has no particular gift for spectacle. The film's bear-baiting, barnyard pageantry is less convincing than its clammy locations. Macbeth ran over budget and schedule thanks mainly to Polanski's insistence on filming in rugged Northumberland and soggy Wales. His was a director's trip. Lady Macbeth's gratuitously nude sleepwalking aside, Polanski's main present to his producer was a naked coven of elderly witches, daring Hef to run a Playboy spread on the Hags of Cawdor.

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