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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars funny goings on at the convent, 10 Mar. 2007
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This review is from: Mother Joan Of The Angels [DVD] [1962] (DVD)
An inexperienced priest is sent in to perform an exorcism on the mother superior - with violent & tragic results.

Another long neglected cult classic of Eastern European cinema resurrected by the excellent Second Run DVD label. The story is based on the Loudon case which has fascinated many writers, artists & film makers, notably Ken Russell's infamous 1970s movie The Devils. Mother Joan, being a Polish film from 1960, is rather less lurid than The Devils but may have influenced Russell and possibly Friedkin's Exorcist too. However it should be stressed that, although still shocking and disturbing, Mother Joan is a very austere black & white art-house film & the best comparison would be with Bergman's medievalist epics such as Seventh Seal & Virgin Spring. Cinematically Mother Joan is a great film, beautifully shot & acted, but I'm not sure how seriously to take it - while not exactly "nunsploitation" it teeters on the edge of kitsch - if you are a fan of mad nun movies, from Back Narcissus on, you should check this out! The director claimed it was an allegory of sexual repression (ie Freudian & anti-Catholic) but you can't help but wonder whether it is also an allegory of Polish communism. The DVD includes booklet with informative essay & carries apologies for the very grainy film print but that didn't bother me - just added to the grainy medieval ambience!
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 Apr 2012 20:28:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 Apr 2012 21:28:43 BDT
Just a quick note to say that this review is of the old Second Run DVD, which was sourced from a 1" analogue tape master of less than wonderful quality. The restored version (i.e. the one with the black, white and red cover) is unrecognisably improved - it's taken from a very recent digital restoration supervised by the film's original cinematographer Jerzy Wójcik. So the comments about "the very grainy film print" no longer apply.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Jun 2012 12:48:29 BDT
A. S. Potts says:
Fully concur, the new restoration is magnificent - both film and package. True to form Amazon has appended my new review of the restored version to the 2005 release but hopefully the difference is self-evident.

Incidentally, exactly how HJ can confuse this film with 'kitsch' is quite beyond my powers of analysis and there's no ambiguity to my mind regarding its seriousness.

Posted on 6 Jul 2012 21:19:14 BDT
HJ says:
Yes it's unfortunate that Amazon still haven't found a way to keep reviews tagged to particular editions - with DVDs this is a really important issue.
As for `kitsch'- maybe that was the wrong word. I didn't mean to suggest that Kawalerowicz deliberately uses `kitsch' the way Ken Russell does! All I meant was that Mother Joan could be seen in relation to nun/ exorcism genres and in relation to medievalist genre - & these particular genres have a tendency towards hysteria, fetishism & wayward allegory. I realise someone like Mark Kermode takes The Devils & Exorcist very seriously, but I think he comes from a religious standpoint, one I can't really share. I like Mother Joan, but thought it powerful cinematically in relation to the vogue for Bergman medievalism - rather than because of any supposed allegorical subtexts, whether Freudian, Catholic or Stalinist.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Jul 2012 02:19:28 BDT
A. S. Potts says:
Ok, I follow what you're saying and certainly agree with the last couple of sentences.
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