Preview: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2018

Featured Critic; Brooklyn, New York (@floatingartist)
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There are different ways to celebrate the arrival of Spring. But if you are in New York, there is only one way to do it, in style: you go see some great new French films at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It's a proud tradition around this neck of the woods.

The 23rd edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema is here with an array of films by established filmmakers and first-timers alike, including Bruno Dumont (Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc), Mathieu Amalric (Barbara), Raymond Depardon (12 Days), Toni Marshall (Number One), Léonor Serraille (Montparnasse Bienvenüe), Léa Mysius (Ava), just to name a few.

FSLC is partnering again with UniFrance this year, putting emphasis on presenting emerging women directors. To quote Executive Director of UniFrance Isabelle Giordano:

French cinema today is unafraid to delve into the issues at the forefront of our collective consciousness, which is reflected throughout this year’s selection. In particular, we’re extremely proud to showcase a wide variety of women’s stories—films about women’s resilience during times of war, millennial women trying to find their place in the world, the glass ceiling, and even the childhood of a young girl destined to become a legend. As ever, we are thrilled to introduce American audiences to bold newFrench voices, this year including Léa Mysius, Léonor Serraille, Maryam Goormaghtigh, and Marine Francen.

The series runs from Thursday, March 8 to Sunday, March 18. For tickets and more info, please visit FSLC website.

Here are the films I was able to sample:

Jeannette, The Childhood of Joan of Arc - Bruno Dumont

It does makes sense that Bruno Dumont's latest is about Joan of Arc. She personifies the Christian devotion and spirituality, so it comfortably fits in his filmography. It also makes sense that Jeanette is a musical comedy: as he brazenly made it clear since his first foray into comedy with L'il Quinquin and last year's Slack Bay that comedy is just a flip side of a coin- that his austere films (dotted with bizarre surrealist moments) can easily be rip-roaringly funny when they go two millimeter off the path.

Young Jeanne (Lise Leplat Prudhomme, and later played by Jeanne Voisin) is a precocious girl living in Domrémy, north-east France (Dumont's beloved home region). She and her friend have been praying to god to save France from English invaders to no avail. She encounters a twin dancing nuns or, has a religious epiphany of Ste. Marguerite & Catherine, telling her to lead the French army. They conclude their meeting with a choreographed headbanging with Heavy Metal music.

I get what Dumont is trying to do and Jeannette should work in theory. His Bressonian approach, using non-professionals to convey the serious subject such as faith and purity of Joan of Arc is a noble attempt and should be praised. But when you think of Joan of Arc, it's usually the haunting close ups of Renée Jeanne Falconetti's face in Dreyer's poetic masterpiece Passion of Joan of Arc that come up to mind. In comparison, Jeanette can come across as a bad high school musical, complete with b-boy moves and falling off a horse for laughs.

Dumont's full framed beautiful composition highlighting the big sky country is there, so as the picturesque, windswept, soft lit sand hills of Brittany. But can it offset the silliness? You will be the judge.

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