I'd seen this ultra-rare French northern film back in the day, in 1992 actually, and I saw it twice, even though it made only a short round in Finnish cinemas. I'd never seen it again, but for some reason or another it had stuck to my mind and having an opportunity to see it again on 35mm film (okay, I had a hand in organizing the screening) I jumped the wagon.
Saying "ultra-rare" means that Jesuit Joe has only been released on VHS in French with no subtitles and on DVD in French with no subtitles. It's never been shown in Finnish television and before this it was never shown on the Finnish Film Archive screenings. It seems from IMDb that Finland was the only country where the film was shown originally beside France. So not many have seen it. It's available on YouTube, but they have only the cropped VHS copy without any subtitles.
The copy on YouTube is in French, but the copy I just saw was dubbed in English, so the producers at least tried to make this international. The film is based on Hugo Pratt's 1980 graphic novel with the same title and Pratt also was writing the screenplay, but they did some extra and not so necessary changes here and there. The original graphic novel, for example, has no vulture buzzard giving a voice-over narration, as in the film. It works at times, at times it doesn't.
The whole film suffers from the same problem: at times it works, at times it doesn't. The aerial scenes of the wintery Canadian landscape (the film was shot in Canada) are breath-taking, but the actors are pretty bad almost throughout. The screenplay has some dubious explanatory scenes or dialogue, which are not necessary. The director, Olivier Austen, has done only some unit managing in some other films beside this, and it shows. There are some very clumsy scenes here and there. Even the soundtrack shows the same undecisiveness, with hard-rock themes suddenly bursting out.
Yet there's something intriguing about the unrelenting story about the half-Indian Jesuit Joe killing mercilessly those he doesn't like or approve - or not killing. Take a look if you have the chance - or can speak French and can suffer through the bad VHS copy of YouTube.
Todd Mason doesn't seem to be gathering any links to other Overlooked Film posts, but here's his blog anyway.