Review: Jeannette – Jeannette, l’enfance de Joan of Arc (2017)

Jeannette – Jeannette, l’enfance de Joan of Arc (2017)

Directed by: Bruno Dumont | 105 minutes | history, musical | Actors: Lise Leplat Prudhomme, Jeanne Voisin, Lucile Gauthier, Victoria Lefebvre, Aline Charles, Elise Charles, Nicolas Leclaire, Gery De Poorter, Régine Delalin, Anaïs Rivière, Kyliann Maréchal Tellier, Malone Leroy, Maxime Boulanger, Jonathan Leguen

Some form of excitement went through us when we heard prior to Cannes 2017 that Bruno Dumont would take Joan of Arc’s childhood as a starting point for his new film ‘Jeannette’. Dumont, with prose writer Michel Houellebecq, is looking for the true France in the mystical Middle Ages – as he already showed with ‘Hadewijch’, and it seemed to us strongly that we could be disappointed in this area by this purist and lyricist.

The real France, is that the hasty mumbling of the name of ‘le bon Dieu’ among bleating sheep, in a soberly staged landscape that might as well be found in north-western France? Strange, to see dunes in the Lorraine of the young Joan of Arc (anno 1425). It could have been a little more accurate.

‘Jeannette’ – billed as a musical, is alienating; the next scene is accompanied by a kind of turbofolk. The bright spot as Jeanne is the infectiously acting Lise Leplat Prudhomme, who dances everywhere in between – has poetic conversations with friend Hauviette (Lucile Gauthier) and with her creator, which is endearingly beautifully portrayed. The switch from 8 to 13 years (Jeanne Voisin replaces Prudhomme) can also be called successful.

The musical performances, which are accompanied without a wink by a mix of folk music and heavy metal, accord well with the described period. It is unclear, however, what exactly Dumont intends; he tells a basically familiar story: a French young woman wants to end English rule.

Dumont interprets, and that seems to be the comfort zone of the former enfant terrible at this point in his career. Form takes precedence over content, text over action. However, we do not go as far as VPRO Cinema (‘intoxicated film idea from subsidy hell’). Dumont has his own color palette that will not appeal to everyone, but he colors within the lines. He is still ‘hardcore’, but he doesn’t smash his guitar (anymore).

The musical element in an arthouse setting that works to tell a story. ‘Jeannette’ is repetitive and lyrical; the old music is beautifully intertwined with the contemporary. The pieces of music follow each other quickly, which can make them boring. And synchronized singing nuns accompanied by hard rock guitars, that will make you laugh after a while.

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