The Girl from Paris
review by Gregory Avery, 26 September 2003

The Girl from Paris, an allegedly idyllic film about how a young woman discovers the joys of French country life, almost lost me from the get-go when, in the first seven minutes, a live farm pig is, noisily, strung up by its haunches, shot point-blank in the head, and then drained of its blood prior to butchering. It is enough to cause the heroine to decide upon raising goats (for milk and cheese) and crops on the farm she takes charge to toil upon, but Mathilda Seigner, the actress who plays her, doesn't seem too crazy about the experience, either. Later, right at about the one-hour mark, we are shown a brief sequence of cattle being killed prior to processing. Are the filmmakers trying to say something? Not really: the cute bunnies that Michel Serrault's character raises are for food, not pets.* 

Seigner plays a girl who sees a sign for the Rhône-Alps on the back of a Paris bus one day and decides to chuck it all -- including her job as a computer and Internet user instructor -- to take up life as a farmer (For which she takes a two-year course, at an agrarian school. You don't mess around on these things).  Serrault plays a man who's been doing just that for many years and decides to sell, but, due to a snag, he can't entirely vacate the place for another eighteen months. His initial disdain for her softens, as does her decision to chuck farm life and go back to the city and her old boyfriend (Frédéric Pierrot, who looks continually baffled, as if he can't really believe Seigner has deigned to be in his presence).

With few exceptions (see above), the filmmakers aim at being both deft and light -- so light, in fact, that the film (which was a hit in France, under the title Une hirondelle a fait le printemps, or, One Swallow Came Before Spring) turns positively drowsy in parts. There are pointed comparisons between the advantages of getting back in touch with the land and Our Modern Age, with people plugged into cell phones and headsets that create barriers between interaction with nature and with other people. There are also some predictable story devices, such as one that has us think that one of the characters has died but it turns out that we guessed wrong all the time. Seigner's character really seems to like leading her goatherd ("Allez, Mouchette!") to and from pasture every day -- the gorgeous gold-and-green views of actual Rhône-Alps landscapes by cinematographer Antoine Héberlé provide us with a good idea why. I'd like to see what happens when she's stuck out there for a good three months after the first really big snowfall, though.

*Certificates from the American Human Society have become a virtual requirement on all Hollywood studio films for the past several years, and, this year, the makers of the independent film May took it upon  themselves to reassure audiences that any depictions of animals being harmed or misused in their film were accomplished through "the magic of taxidermy".

Directed by:
Christian Carion

Mathilde Seigner
Michel Serrault
Frédéric Pierrot 
Jean-Paul Roussillon

Written by:
Christian Carion 
Eric Assous

NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated.






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