best film:   The Passion of Joan of Arc is so formally flawless and stylistically audacious at the same time. It is one of the 15-20 films one could legitimately, and somewhat objectively, call the greatest film of all-time at this point. Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent masterpiece is at or near the peak of the artform in terms of virtuoso editing, camera angles, camera movement,  minimalist mise-en-scene, and yes—screen acting.



the French actor is remembered by one performance and one name: “Falconetti”



best performance:  Falconetti’s work in The Passion of Joan of Arc is one of the screen acting performances you could count on one hand as being most often cited as the single best performance ever in the history of film (Robert De Niro gets a lot of mentions for Raging Bull as does Marlon Brando for On the Waterfront).  Falconetti’s case is as good as either De Niro or Brando.  Dreyer’s groundbreaking editing helps—along with his choice to go almost exclusively with close-ups—but it is still Falconetti’s face as the canvas—she reveals true heroine virtue one minute, extreme fear the next, and still profound sadness in another scene. This is a colossal achievement of screen acting.


Falconetti as the ethereal Joan with those unblinking eyes



stylistic innovations/traits:  Falconetti’s resume is one film. Her only other feature is La comtesse de Somerive which was made over a decade before The Passion of Joan of Arc and in over twenty years of being a cinephile I have never heard of anyone seeing it. So with one film, and it arguably being the best film and performance of of all-time, it becomes near impossible to compare Falconetti with an actor who has been say, for example, outstanding in several films, a dozen films total in the archives- but obviously never hit the high highs of Falconetti. This was Falconetti’s final film performance as well-  so she also gets to walk off into the proverbial sunset or drop the mic after delivering this work of genius performance inside a work of genius film.


Dreyer and Falconetti did not invent the close-up (Griffith and Gish really did that) from an artistic standpoint but this is damn close.


directors worked with:   Carl Theodor Dreyer once of course



top five performances:

  1. The Passion of Joan of Arc 



archiveable films

1928 – The Passion of Joan of Arc