Pope Joan deals with a female head of the Roman Catholic Church. Thanks to a screenplay that uses a modern-day story counterpart to suggest, apparently, that the theme is timely, this is too disjointed and rambling to make much sense.
The story is told as the ancient prototype of a modern female evangelist, torn between sex and salvation, whose religious fervor and bedroom capers more or less match those of her earlier counterpart.
She’s ‘adopted’ in more ways than one by an artist-monk who eventually takes her to Greece as a male. They eventually wind up in Rome where her street preaching brings her to the attention of Leo XII, who takes her (him) on as a papal secretary, upped to cardinal and eventually his successor.
Liv Ullmann as Pope Joan carries the film with Maximilian Schell and Franco Nero trailing behind.
[Version reviewed is 132-minute one trade shown in New York. The 101-minute UK version omits all modern sequences.]