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Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc

A head-banging Joan of Arc with a rhyme-spitting uncle and levitating saints? It can only be the work of Bruno Dumont (Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner for 1999's bleak Humanité). There's no shortage of biopics about the Orléans icon as a young adult, so the French filmmaker's idiosyncratic, if respectful origin story attempts to restore some color to her alabaster cheeks.

Instead of a tortured adolescent, Jeannette (Lise Leplat Prudhomme) is an 8-year-old shepherdess in 1425, singing songs of devotion and sharing her bread with the hungry. Some of electronic composer Igorrr's songs have a techno beat, while others bring on the death-metal guitar. In the lyrics, Jeannette laments England's endless occupation of France and beseeches the Lord for a solution. When Dumont catches up with her a few years later (now played by Jeanne Voisin), her conviction has turned into the will to act.

The director adapted his 10th feature from the works of poet Charles Peìguy, resulting in a beautifully shot film set in a bucolic land of wildflower-covered hills, winding streams, and azure skies. Unfortunately, his G-rated Bresson-as-poptimist approach is surprisingly dull, and the two Jeannes aren't exactly the best singers. There's something to be said for the numerous depictions of the French firebrand as an armor-clad warrior rushing into battle and risking the execution that would claim her life at the age of 19.

For more information about Jeannette and other films opening this week, see Movie Times.