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Movie Poster of the Week: Carl Th. Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc”

An exclusive premiere of Janus Films’ new poster for the restored film, and a survey of the poster art that came before it.
I am excited to be premiering Janus Films’ brand new poster for their re-release of The Passion of Joan of Arc, one of my all-time favorite films and one of the most beautiful films ever made. Designed by Eric Skillman, the new poster is simplicity itself, relying on a single still of Maria Falconetti as Joan in her most iconic pose, and although the beauty of Dreyer’s masterpiece is that almost any still from the film would be poster-worthy, this one is perfect. It’s the clarity of the image that carries the poster, and which whets the appetite for the digital restoration it heralds, but the type block below is suitably elegant and restrained.
I did a previous feature on the film a few years ago, concentrating on the artwork of the great René Péron, but there are a number of other wonderful designs for the film which I thought I would collect here.
First there are Péron’s enormous double-grande and four-panel designs (for a size comparison, see my original article) which deserve to be seen in close-up.
And then there is the original double-grande by Jean-Adrien Mercier which uses the same image as the Janus poster, sans crown.
And which was re-purposed 50 years later for the 1978 French re-release:
There is another stunning French poster, in which Joan is relegated to the background, kneeling before her interrogators, which looks as if it was designed by the great Boris Bilinsky, who founded a film advertising company under the name Alboris (which seems to be the signature) in May 1928.
The original U.S. one-sheet was strikingly different from the French designs. Unsigned by the artist, it boasts the film as “An Immortal Screen Classic that will live Forever”, which was proved to be true despite the film’s beleaguered history (its original negatives were twice lost in fires). I am intrigued by the credit “Joan of Arc Pictures Inc. presents” and wonder if an American company was set up with the whole purpose of releasing this film. Also of note is the credit “English dialogue by David Ross of radio fame.” Ross, who died in 1975, was described in his New York Times obituary as “the former poet-radio announcer, whose well-modulated voice entertained millions of listeners with fervent reading on his own and other poems.” I love the 3D title treatment on this poster, but what I assume to be a halo behind Saint Joan’s head always looks to me like a little pillbox hat.
The beautiful Italian 1959 re-release due-fogli (twice the size of a US one sheet) by Carlantonio Longi, takes a similar scene as the U.S. poster, with Joan at the stake clutching the crucifix.
I also like this fotobusta which has another striking drawing by Longi on the left side.
There is also one other French design, by Albert Briol, that uses the same climactic scene.
I’m not sure what era the German poster by Bender comes from, but I love the simplicity of its stylized rendering of the same image that Janus uses on their poster.
My favorite find of all, however, (courtesy of EMoviePoster.com) is this program and invitation for the gala premiere of the film on May 17, 1929 in Brooklyn. It was screened at the Momart, a.k.a. “Brooklyn’s Little Art Theatre,” which turns out to have been a 595 seat theater on Fulton Street, right opposite where BAM’s Harvey Theater now sits. Opened in 1927 as the Montmartre, it was renamed the Momart a year later, and by December of 1929 (six months after the Passion premiere) it was exclusively showing newsreels and short subjects. According to the invaluable website Cinema Treasures, it ran until 1954, by which time it was screening Italian films. The building has since been demolished and was a parking lot until quite recently, but what I wouldn’t give to pay my 75 cents and attend that screening of Passion of Joan of Arc in 1929 downtown Brooklyn.
One more aside: I love the note on the program that says that Joan had been selected by the National Board of Review as “one of the four greatest films of all time” along with The Birth of a Nation, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and “The Armoured Cruiser Potemkin” (sic).
Many thanks to Ben Crossley-Mara and Janus Films. The restored Passion of Joan of Arc paired with Richard Einhorn’s choral and orchestral soundtrack Voices of Light, opens on November 24 at New York’s Film Forum.

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