Wavelengths

Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc

Bruno Dumont

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French master Bruno Dumont (Hadewijch, P’tit Quinquin) recreates the adolescence of the Maid of Orleans as a radical, electro-metal musical.

The battles, trial, and martyrdom of Joan of Arc have been chronicled by such cinema masters as Cecil B. DeMille, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Robert Bresson, Otto Preminger, and Jacques Rivette — but seldom has the crucial period of Joan's preadolescent formation been depicted on screen. With his tenth feature, Bruno Dumont radically delves into Joan's childhood with a category-defying period-cum-techno-head-banging musical, derived from two works by French writer Charles Péguy.

Set in 1425 France, with the Hundred Years' War raging off-screen, the film begins with eight-year-old Jeannette tending fluffy sheep in the village of Domrémy. She confides her mystical calling to her friend Hauviette, and although dissuaded by Madame Gervaise (hilariously embodied by a pair of identical twin nuns), Jeannette is ultimately buoyed by her faith and sets out to fulfill her destiny.

Exquisitely shot in a palette of royal blues, heather greens, and sand by Guillaume Deffontaines, Jeannette oozes elemental beauty. With a touch of Straub-Huillet materialism, Dumont casts non-actors in the leading roles and makes use of live sync sound for the sung, a cappella dialogue, creating an intoxicating combination of naturalism, amateurism, and anarchic artifice that is bolstered by an electro-metal score from French multi-instrumentalist Igorrr and a majorettes-meets–mosh pit choreography with hair-wagging paroxysms. Heady, strange, genuinely funny, and completely out of time, Jeannette is one helluva contribution to the canon of "Joan films" and further proof of Dumont's astonishing versatility and uncompromising vision.

ANDRÉA PICARD

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