The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Luc Besson's "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" labors under the misapprehension that Joan's life is a war story and takes place largely on battlefields. In fact, it takes place almost entirely within the consciences of everyone involved. The movie does at least concede that a good part of Joan's legend involves her trial for heresy and her burning at the stake, and these scenes may prove educational for the test audience members who wrote on their sneak preview cards, "Why does she have to die at the end?" Two of the best films ever made are about Joan of Arc: "The Passion of Joan of Arc," by Carl Dreyer (1928), and "The Trial of Joan of Arc," by Robert Bresson (1962). One of the worst, "Saint Joan" (1957), by Otto Preminger, had in common with Luc Besson's movie the theory that Joan must look like a babe. Dreyer's Joan was Falconetti, a French actress whose haunted face mirrored one of the greatest performances in cinema--the only one she ever gave. Preminger's was Jean Seberg, found in Iowa after an international talent search. The search for her talent continued after the film was completed, and it was finally found in Godard's "Breathless" two years later.
Besson has cast Milla Jovovich as his Joan. She was his wife at the time they started shooting. They have since split--although he says they would still be together if they could only have made movies 365 days a year, a statement that may provide more insight than he intended. Jovovich, who also starred in Besson's "The Fifth Element," is a healthy, cheerful, open-faced 24-year-old actress who seems much too robust and uncomplicated to play Joan.
The movie is a mess: a gassy costume epic with nobody at the center. So deficient is Besson at suggesting the conscience which rules Joan's actions that the movie even uses another character, the Grand Inquisitor, as a surrogate conscience, and brings in Dustin Hoffman to play it. That Hoffman's performance is the best in the film should have been a nudge to the filmmaker that he could cut back on the extras and the battle scenes and make the movie about--well, about Joan.
Joan of Arc was a naive young French peasant woman, illiterate, who was told by voices that she must go to the aid of her king. France at that time was ill-supplied with kings; the best it could offer was the reluctant Dauphin (John Malkovich), later Charles VII. She informed him her destiny was to lead French troops on the battlefield against the English, who were godless (or foreign, which to the French was a negligible distinction).
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