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  Jeanette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc Joan Of Arc Sings The Hits
Year: 2017
Director: Bruno Dumont
Stars: Lisa Leplat Prudhomme, Jeanne Voisin, Lucille Gauthier, Victoria Lefebvre, Aline Charles, Elise Charles, Nicolas Leclaire, Gerry De Poorter, Regine Delalin, Anais Riviere, Kyliann Marechal Tellier, Malone Leroy, Maxime Boulanger, Jonathan Leguen
Genre: Musical, Weirdo, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jeannette (Lisa Leplat Prudhomme) is a deeply religious little French girl in the early fourteen-hundreds, around the time of the Hundred Years' War which she would dearly love to put an end to by driving the English from France. But how could she do this? She believes if she prays hard enough to God, Jesus Christ and her favourite saints she can turn the tide of events, though she remains a young shepherdess out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but her sheep to keep her company, that is apart from the occasional visits from her friend Hauviette (Lucille Gauthier) and others who pass through. Being a charitable type, she has given up her bread to two boys - is that enough?

Bruno Dumont remained an enigma once again in French cinema with an account of Joan of Arc that did not include any war, any trial, or indeed any burning at the stake, but in its place was a lot of amateurish singing and dancing to heavy metal rock opera. If the prospect of watching almost two hours of that, all shot on what looks like the same side of a hill and its surrounding countryside, made you suddenly remember you had other plans, perhaps bear in mind that this could have been intended as a comedy, as Monty Python and the Holy Grail had been, though considering how difficult it was to tell, you would understand if not everyone found it a laugh riot, if indeed that was the point.

Would a Frenchman make a film taking the mickey out of Joan of Arc anyway? Even if there was purposeful humour, Dumont had covered himself by putting the lyrics into his characters' mouths of devout religious meaning, all to explain what turned the little girl into the Christian crusader who may or may not have suffered severe hallucinations she mistook for the act of God. Or maybe this was God's method of moving through her, in his mysterious way? Again, this was so poker faced that you could put a number of interpretations on it, including one that posited Joan as one of the original metal goddesses, as time and again she breaks out into bouts of hair-swinging headbanging.

All along with the crunching guitars and hammering drums on the soundtrack (there were also electronic interludes, in case this wasn't absurd enough). There were two versions of Joan, or Jeannette, the teenage one played by Jeanne Voisin, as we jump around the halfway mark to then events just before she decided to go off and lead her insurgency, but this was so low budget that while there were some attractive shots of the landscape, that was mostly all you got, with one scene set indoors. All the while, the small cast pranced about in the style of a community play put on in the outdoors because the town hall had been closed for renovations, except there was no audience, and very occasional effects, such as a vision of saints doing the Batusi.

If you were paying attention to those words, you would make out the religious themes as to how Joan could justify her impassioned belief in her country and fellow populace as there on Earth by divine right, and how that fuels a war that lasts a century. But if there is such a thing as sarcastic sheep, then by God they were present here, interrupting the sincerity with a snide "BAA!" at every opportunity, as if to remind us had Dumont's camera not been there, Joan's praying and visions would have looked a lot like a lonely, solitary girl going quietly mad among her flock. Some of this was undeniably chuckle-inducing, but as it presented Joan as going off to her early death in the frame of mind that it was her idea to be martyred in an "I meant to do that!" sort of way, it did seem to be making light of a very sad set of circumstances that may have passed into national legend, but remained the story of a teenage girl who was murdered for no good reason, and encouraged into that demise too. Which might be metal, but it's also tragic. Also, what's with the fixation on her bare feet?

Aka: Jeannette, l'enfance de Jeanne d'Arc

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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