Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc ★★★½

The (heavy metal) thrashin' of Joan of Arc.

Dumont nearly drew and quartered me with this crazytown hard-rock musical of a shepherdess, the sisters and saints who inspire her, the bumbling uncle who helps her, and the conscience that drives her. What I mean is that this movie pulls me in several directions at once, and it isn't a comfortable experience. It seems to have contrary goals:

- to enchant me with its modest charms (two spirited actresses who sing and dance);

- to make me laugh out loud at its audacity (which frequently toes the line of absurdity);

- to cause me to wrestle with the distinct tangle of Christian faith, saintly vision, and French patriotism that led Joan to go to war in Jesus' name;

- to deliver the hair-metal show of the year.

I laughed. I nearly cried. I grew bored by the lack of imagination in certain repetitive song-and-dance numbers. I was moved by young Lise Leplat Prudhomme as young Jeannette, whose confidence and earnestness were convincing; and I was persuaded and inspired by Jeanne Voisin's fierceness, giving the young-adult Joan a voice as raw PJ Harvey's and dance that suggests she was visited by the muse of Pina Bausch.

It doesn't work. I could point to any number of rough edges, like the amateur-hour choreography and the clunky alignment of lyrics and melodies. But then again, any movie that makes a comfortable, neat experience out of Joan of Arc has got something wrong. She's an impossible figure, and she requires impossible movies.

I can't say I enjoyed this in a way that makes me want to see it again. But I am so very, very glad I saw it on a big screen without the option to press "Pause." The moments when I lost patience with it were instructive, because they were usually quickly followed by moments that made me glad I'd stayed.

What I really want, though, is for someone to do a supercut of Joan's and Madame Gervaise's headbanging scenes, and set it all to "Flip My Hair."

Artistry: 3.8/5
My enthusiasm: 3.2/5

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