Man, the French sure love Joan of Arc, don’t they. I guess she appeared out of the blue, giving new hope to the troops and French king, and led some decisive battles which eventually caused them to drive out the British after a century of war. It’s a good legacy, but mostly in cinema I see her being interrogated and executed, exceptions being the first halves of the Rivette and the Dumont. And here we go again… I don’t necessarily love Bresson’s choices of subject matter or his morose characters, but something about his style really gets me. This was made earlier than I realized, between Pickpocket and Balthazar – the real test will be when I get a chance to rewatch the 1970’s movies.

Not much suspense for us – the movie is based on trial records and Tarantino hadn’t invented historical revisionism yet – but even within the film, her burning is made out to be a foregone conclusion, so there’s no real point to the interrogation.

Florence Delay went on to narrate Sans Soleil, the bishop went on to nothing at all, and the Jeans… were there really four guys named Jean questioning a woman named Joan? Music by Delphine Seyrig’s brother. The last Bresson film to be shot by L-H Burel, who’d worked on Abel Gance’s J’accuse! over forty years earlier, and the first to be edited by Germaine Artus, who gives us quick fades between scenes, little downtime before dialogue starts again. Won a prize at Cannes, where it played with Cléo from 5 to 7, L’Eclisse, The Exterminating Angel, and surprisingly, Mondo Cane.

A musical Joan of Arc story soundtracked by a metal band! It’s a bit of wacky fun – except it’s not, really… you can still detect the serious Dumont of Hors Satan in the dramatic scenes (which stop the movie dead between musical numbers) and the comic Dumont of Quinquin in the playfulness and the casting, and this movie hangs weirdly in between. The two girls playing the lead seem very much like girls, without the fervor and obsession of other cinematic Joans. These Jeannettes are still figuring out what God wants from them, and their own headbanging and awkward dances (to metal songs interrupted by sheep) is filmed at about the same level as the religious figures and miraculous apparitions. It’s a materialist movie, if that’s the right word OR the right understanding of what he’s doing here, focusing mostly on Jeannette (with great help from her uncle D’nis) being unsure and hesitant about the journey she finally undertakes at the end.

Mouseover for headbanging:
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A UFO called The Wild Boys made my top-ten list of 2018, so I tracked down some shorts by the same director to see what he’s on about.


Any Virgin Left Alive (2015)

A rude reimagining of the death of Joan of Arc (Elina Löwensohn). Only her eyes are burned, and she roams the battlefields in a metal mask, capturing and tormenting a young woman.

Amer-reminiscent:


Our Lady of Hormones (2014)

Two women come across a hairy, fleshy creature with a penile protuberance, squabble over its ownership and care. Löwensohn is eventually murdered with a sickle by Nathalie Richard (the great dancer from Up, Down, Fragile). These shorts have the Argento-Maddin coloring of The Wild Boys, and are similarly perverse fun. Narration by Michel Piccoli (currently his most recent credit), making this the Mandico film with the highest percentage of Rivette actors.


Living Still Life (2012)

A woman finds dead animals and poses them obsessively in stop-motion scenarios, stalked by a grieving man. Great sound and music and color, a perfect short, docked a couple points since I’ve recently seen A Zed and Two Noughts.


Ultra Pulpe (2018)

“I am the most hated filmmaker of my generation, the tribal pornographer, the scavenger of the genre. Who will remember me?” Absolute madness involving women and other creatures on a film set. Pascale Granel shot everything else I’ve seen by Mandico, now Sylvain Verdet takes over… I don’t know either of them from anything else, just trying to keep up. Löwensohn and Richard are joined by Lola Créton (Bastards), two of the Wild Boys, and (as actors) the costume designer of Knife+Heart and Michael Haneke’s casting director.

Some ancient maps and drawings and texts about Joan of Arc – good timing, since I was just reading about Bruno Dumont’s new Joan movie before putting this on. Then a half hour spent at a strip club (or exotic pole-dancing, if there’s a difference). The girls spend most of their time trying to uncomfortably (to me) hard-sell patrons to join them in the expensive private cabins. In private conversations we learn this is a job where girls tend to stay too long, as we’ve recently seen in LoveTrue. “But in my case I know this is only temporary,” says the new girl.

New Girl and her mentor finally venture out into town and meet the girl playing Joan in the town celebrations, spending a moment alone with her horse in the woods. They go to the parade to see their new friend in all her glory, then wander to a church… it’s all pretty low-key, a pillow-film between more substantial LNKarno screenings, but it ends the way all movies should end: telling secrets to a falcon.

A hybrid-documentary, it turns out. Vernier looks prolific, and his Mercuriales appears to be a similar sort of movie. Of the actors, I’m only seeing that Damien Bonnard later starred in Staying Vertical… but who was he, a strip club patron? If so, you could barely make him out under the murky red lighting.

I. The Battles begins with Jeanne having had her angel visitations already, trying to convince local government to take her to the king, and halfway through the film gets to the battles she led against the English. II. The Prisons is half battles (which is good; we didn’t get enough battles in part 1) and half British prisons (with hardly any of the trial/execution scenes that Dreyer would focus on). All set 1429-1431, except for an odd intro in 1455, with Jeanne’s aged mother, a nun, telling of her daughter’s unjust execution.

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It’s a Rivette film, all right. Long shots with medium natural lighting, deliberate camera movement, same typeface as always on the titles, brief blackouts between scenes, same list of collatorators in the credits. Quite a follow-up to La Belle noiseuse… I’ll bet nobody saw this coming. It works very well to Rivette’s strengths, though, and stays focused on Jeanne and her quest without gimmicks and without getting caught up in the scale of the story and the hundreds of side characters.

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Sandrine Bonnaire, a decade after Vagabond and a year before The Ceremony. I didn’t recognize anyone else besides a cameo by Edith Scob. IMDB says Jean de Metz, the guy who leads her to the king’s court, was in Hurlevent, King Charles (André Marcon) is appearing in Rivette’s new film, and Quentin from Out 1 played Pierre Baillot (who was that?).

with Edith Scob:
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Joan is charismatic and persuasive, but acts realistic. Her supernatural visions aren’t shown – we know Rivette isn’t above showing supernatural visions, but here he has Jeanne speak of them regularly without portraying them as a reality to the audience.

Unfortunately, this four-hour film has another two hours which I can’t see at the moment. Looks like Artificial Eye has released it on DVD. You know, my birthday is coming up…

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J. Rosenbaum:

…this is a materialist version of a story that offers no miracles, though it does offer a pertinent attentiveness to gender issues (such as the nervousness and sexual braggadocio of the soldiers who sleep beside Joan) and a Joan who’s girlish as well as devout, capable of giggling as well as experiencing pain; when she wins over the dauphin the scene is pointedly kept offscreen, and when she’s interrogated by priests about her faith she could almost be a graduate student defending a dissertation.

with the king/dauphin:
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C. Fujiwara:

As Rivette and Bonnaire present her, Joan suggests a novice movie director protected by a seasoned crew that humors her as much as obeys her. (Army life in this film is more sitting around than fighting; in this respect it’s like a film shoot.) She doesn’t do miracles; she just uses common sense and takes the initiative.