Ramos' cerebral interpretation of Joan of Arc's life has good moments but remains fundamentally underwhelming, and will have to crusade hard to make it offshore.

Arguably cinema’s favorite femme saint, Joan of Arc gets a few biopics to suit every generation. Gallic multihyphenate Philippe Ramos’ “The Silence of Joan” offers a very 21st-century Jeanne d’Arc: a manic-depressive victim of history whose story is only one strand in a crisscrossing skein, shot on handheld HD cameras, that’s big on mystery and ellipses. Ramos’ cerebral interpretation has good moments but remains fundamentally underwhelming, and will have to crusade hard to make it offshore.

Eschewing all the story highlights that made Luc Besson’s so-bad-it’s-camp “The Messenger” at least a spectacle, “Silence” picks up at the very end of the visionary’s history, just before she’s about to be ransomed to the English. Via prayer monologues, it’s revealed that the voices that have guided Jeanne (Clemence Poesy) have deserted her, leaving her bereft and suicidal. A healer (Thierry Fremont) tries to help her, prompting flashbacks about his life. And so it goes, with yet further digression to explore the lives of several other people Jeanne encounters on her way to the pyre, including a crazed preacher played by Mathieu Amalric. Underlit interiors undermine Ramos’ good lensing work elsewhere.

The Silence of Joan

France

Production

A Sophie Dulac, Echo Films production with the participation of CNC, Region Ile de France, La Banque Postale Image 4, Orange Cinema Series, Sophie Dulac Distribution, with the support of Procirep, Media. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Sophie Dulac, Michel Zana. Directed, written, edited by Philippe Ramos.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Ramos; costume designer, Marie-Laure Pinsard. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors' Fortnight), May 13, 2011. Running time: 131 MIN.

With

Clemence Poesy, Thierry Fremont, Liam Cunningham, Mathieu Amalric, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Jean-Francois Stevenin, Johan Leysen, Bernard Blancan, Pierre Pellet, Pauline Acquart, Christopher Craig, Kester Lovelace.

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