Joan of Arc (VIFF)

Date(s) - September 28, 2019
9:00 pm - 11:15 pm

The Cinemateque

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How, in the early 1400s, did a teenage peasant girl amaze, frighten, and galvanize the Christian world? This is the central mystery of Bruno Dumont’s depiction of the titular saint, stridently un-Hollywood-ized – different from any other depiction of Joan of Arc, in fact – but very sharply and purposefully focused. What does he focus on? Northern France’s windswept coastal landscapes. Towering Christian cathedrals (here Amiens, immense and luminous). The faces, odd mannerisms, and period logic of the villagers, soldiers, and religious patriarchy. The indelible, shining performance of Lise Leplat Prudhomme as a girl who had a vision.

“Just as Joan of Arc claimed to be guided by divine voices… Dumont has always followed promptings entirely alien to the usual logic of European art cinema… Dumont evokes the war sparely with an extraordinary equestrian ballet, as the French cavalry go through their pre-battle paces – sometimes shot directly from above as the horses form elaborate patterns, it’s a mesmerising sequence, giving the film a flavour that’s equal parts Brecht, Bresson and Busby Berkeley… The cathedral scenes also feature a genuine coup de cinéma in the form of a featured appearance by Christophe, the revered, weird, veteran of French chanson, who at 73, combines the voice of a choirboy with the weathered face of an ancient druid. He also provides the film’s lushly heroic score… Dumont’s boldest move, and the one that provides the film’s emotive drive, is the casting of 10-year-old Lise Leplat Prudhomme as Joan… It’s her presence as an embodiment of innocent, unbending will that gives the film its most persuasive meaning.” – Jonathan Romney, Screen

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