Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc Screen 15 articles

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc

2017

Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc Poster
  • Dumont, aided by his wonderful actresses (especially the endearingly awkward Prudhomme) arguably brings us closer to the historical Jeanne than any previous filmmaker. It’s the story of a simple, country girl whose decision not to enter the local convent but instead to take up arms against the English in order to drive them from France is spurred by a religious conviction so strong that it requires a good deal of literal head-banging to convey.

  • The effect is moving; it’s also very funny, but in a way that sparks not laughter but open-mouthed astonishment. Jeannette’s visionary heroism is both clear-minded and absurd; in the extravagant possession of a child playing, completely earnestly, with the forces of history, Dumont catches the celestial comedy of disproportion—and realizes that comedy with an apt sense of wonder and awe.

  • With this heavy-metal musical, French writer-director Bruno Dumont marries the religious themes of his Hadewijch and Outside Satan with the absurd humor of his Li'l Quinquinand Slack Bay. The results are one of a kind and certainly not for everyone, but if you can get on its wavelength, you'll find much to appreciate: the natural settings are gorgeous, the conversations on faith are probing, and the music rocks.

  • The film’s novelty is all in its unique, bonkers execution: rather than being a straightforward biopic about Joan of Arc as a child, Jeannette is a sung-through metal musical (you read that right). The meandering prose of the lyrics, the fact that most of the cast can’t really sing, the flying angels… make Jeannette a wildly funny experiment. Faced with such a joyous, unapologetically random amalgam, the film toys with the fine line between the ridiculous and the sublime.

  • The demands of the performances are beyond the abilities of the actors. This is not to say that Jeannette is simply a film about failure, but rather one about the tension between the land’s natural beauty, the inadequacy of attempts to sing it fully, and Dumont’s own view, which often sits rather humorously right in Jeannette’s line of sight: we might reasonably assume that her eyes are always on God.

  • Has there’s ever been a filmmaker so single-mindedly preoccupied with the matter of faith who has so thoroughly failed to evince any reason for that preoccupation beyond fetishization of its more aberrant manifestations? While the formerly somber Dumont’s turn to the wacky since 2014’s miniseries L’il Quinquin has to some marked a creative rebirth, to these eyes it’s only made more glaring an essential absence in his work.

  • Not only is Bruno Dumont’s newest film, Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc, a worthwhile addition to this lineage but it’s also one of the freshest films to have made the rounds in the big mid-year festivals. But if we can talk about the film as ostensibly belonging to a lineage of historical period cinema on Joan of Arc, its singularity comes from a thoroughgoing self-interrogation on what it means to contribute to that lineage today.

  • Nobody needed another Joan of Arc story. However Jeannettegives us a look, as the subtitle tells us, at the childhood of Joan, the very beginning of her calling. Whereas we all know how Joan's tale would end, Dumont shows us the incongruity between girlish impetuousness -- a petulant if precocious devotion to her cause -- and the genuine rage at her nation's destruction which will serve as her hallmark.

  • Pitched somewhere between Straub-Huillet and Headbangers Ball, Monty Python and Messiaen, Bruno Dumont’s new feature Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc marks an unexpected and near-perfect synthesis of the French iconoclast’s many disparate interests and obsessions.

  • ...Far outside these understood benchmarkers of quality, Bruno Dumont’s new film and first musical, Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc, which premiered over in the parallel Directors’ Fortnight festival, is one of the true UFOs I have encountered in my ten years of Cannes attendance. So aberrant and ruthless is its pursuit of new forms of poetry, luminance and madness that it can be (and very much has been) confused for cretinism itself.

  • As in Staub-Huillet’s work, here is the bracing delight of cinema’s core pleasure: the camera conjuring fierce physicality, light changes, the sounds of a specific place, the encounter of another person’s presence—and that person’s inextricable role as a participant in making or unmaking the world around them. Prudhomme is beguiling, the perfect mix of precision and sloppy play, she joins Falconetti as a full person and true embodiment of Christian fervor, doubt, ego, devotion and ambition.

  • All of it would be more amusing, even endearing, if Daumont hadn’t chosen to hire in IGORR to compose the music, a dismal sludge of heavy metal thrashing and faux operatic trills that all sounds the same after half an hour but must be endured for 90 minutes more. One can never quite tell with Dumont if he’s deadly serious about all this or laughing up his sleeve. That’s sort of what makes his work fascinating, although in this instance, viewer patience is severely tested.

  • This all leaves Jeanette feeling like a more acclimated addition to Dumont's filmography than the loony, mean-spirited Slack Bay, even maybe than the four-hour made-for-television mystery Li'l Quinquin. As an exploration of Joan of Arc in cinema narrative, the film isn't as rich and substantial as Bresson's The Trial of Joan of Arc or Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, but the universality of Dumont's spiritualism makes it nonetheless compelling.

  • Imagine a high school stage production set in the 15th century and featuring an electro-rock score that’s equal parts Meatloaf, Skrillex and Cannibal Corpse – all of it captured by Dumont’s impeccable filmmaking acumen, with regular DP Guillaume Deffontaines doing another impressive job behind the camera – and you can get a vague idea of what’s in store. Unlikely to win over new converts but surely to please the choir, Jeanette can be both tedious and cinematically uplifting.

  • Faced with the sights and sounds of confident musical oddity Jeanette... one of the least likely sentences in the English language has to be “Bruno Dumont has fallen into a rut.” His wacky yet assured take on the childhood and adolescence of the future Joan Of Arc would be a perfect opening night offering if anybody starts a ‘Love It Or Hate It’ film festival.

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