A Film for January: The Passion of Joan of Arc

This was a brilliant film to start the year. Based on actual documents from the trial, it chronicles the hours leading up to Joan of Arc’s execution for heresy.

Every scene in the courtroom is slow and agonising. The camera settles on the young face of Joan (Renee Maria Falconetti) with painfully close up shots as she wipes tears from her cheeks before it wanders around her accusers. The simple terror and saintliness expressed in her face is counterbalanced by the powerful, ecclesiastic jurists who claim they only want what is best for her. The haunting lighting and dramatic use of angles highlights every grotesque gesture in this phoney trial.

When she’s found guilty and the film moves to her burning at the stake, the stark quietness of the courtroom is replaced by a broken-hearted crowd . The scenes of her followers being beaten and killed by officials are shockingly realistic and a mother breastfeeding her baby in a bold, unflinching scene still looks daring.

Directed by the Danish film maker Carl Theodor Dreyer and released in 1928, The Passion of Joan of Arc is considered a land mark in cinema history because of its camera work, use of lighting and set design. I was reminded in places of Citizen Kane (1941), but I thought this was better. It’s simple in style but bold and creative and very dramatic. I watched it on the BFI player.


Twenty year old Stephen Wraysford arrives in France in 1910. As an orphan Stephen grew up in care but has an education provided by his well meaning guardian and now he’s been sent by the textile company he works for in England to observe the new manufacturing process used in a factory in Amiens, owned by Rene Azaire. Behind the large, bourgeois home of the Azaire’s, where Stephen is going to stay, the river Somme breaks into small picturesque canals where fisherman sit and blackbirds sing overhead. In his pockets he has a leather notebook, his rail ticket and a knife.

Stephen’s passionate, life changing affair with Isabelle, Madame Azaire, is the focus of this first part, and when he writes about her in his journal written in a private code, ‘pulse’ is the word he uses for her. This is a section that glitters with life, the sounds and the newness, even the demonstrations at the factory for more pay are lives being lived with hope for social progression.

Continue reading “Birdsong”

Sad Cypress

This year I’m going to follow ReadChristie2023, which looks like a fun way of getting back into reading the Queen of Crime. The theme for the year is Motives and Methods and every month they give a particular motive or method and suggest a title for reading.

For January the motive is Jealousy and the suggested read is Sad Cypress.

Sophisticated and beautiful Elinor Carlisle has been in love with Roddy all her life. As their aunt Laura, lies on her sick bed at her country home, Hunterbury Hall, the two, being her only relations, go to visit her and come to an understanding. At last Elinor can look forward to being Mrs Roderick Welman. But then Roddy sees a girl crossing the lawn

‘a girl with pale, gleaming hair and a rose-flushed skin. He thought, ‘How beautiful-how unutterably beautiful.’ . . The world, he felt, was spinning, was topsy-turvey, was suddenly and impossibly and gloriously crazy!’

Oh dear, it’s Mary Gerrard, and Elinor knows that she’s lost Roddy forever unless . . .

Standing in the dock on Thursday July 27th, Elinor is accused of Mary’s murder. All the evidence points towards her, she has the motive and the opportunity but will she plead guilty?

Continue reading “Sad Cypress”

Wanderlust Bingo

This year I’m going to join Fiction Fan on her Wanderlust Bingo journey! It’s a two year challenge which will encourage me to read (geographically at least) more widely. A country can only appear once and a book can only fill one square.

Some squares (North America for example) could have a few contestants so I’m going to list possibles here and then make a final choice of title per square at the end of 2024.

Like FF I’m going to take this at a leisurely pace seeing where I go as I get there, and then towards the end of next year I’ll start paddling like mad and looking for lists of titles set in Polynesia. . .

I’m looking forward to it; there’s the possibility of maps and graphs and stats but even if that proves to daunting I will have benefitted from a wider reading experience, so wish me luck and

Bon Voyage!

TBR Challenge 2023

The TBR challenge is 10 years old, thank you RoofBeamReader!

It’s a simple challenge to read 12 books that you’ve owned for a year at least, in any order over the coming year. Last year I read A Time of Gifts the first part of Paddy Leigh Fermor’s memoir of travelling across Europe in the 1930’s and loved it so much I bought the second part straight away so that’s the newest copy on my list. Birdsong though, has been sitting on my shelf for years and has even appeared on a TBR challenge list before and still not been read, that’s why it’s here at number 1!

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Just Watching A Film: 2023

A Happy New Year means a happy new list of films to watch from my two favourite family film gurus. It’s an eclectic list from different decades and for the first time includes films from Senegal and Palestine.

I haven’t seen any of these before not even What’s Up Doc, which is strange since I love everything about Barbara Streisand; but on first glance I think I’m looking forward to Septembers Daughters of the Dust and Wanda in November, which made me smile straight away! Here’s my list To Be Watched:

Continue reading “Just Watching A Film: 2023”