The Girl From Paris

"OK"

The Girl From Paris Review


The old men who farm France's glorious Rhone-Alps region would tell you that a woman couldn't operate a farm successfully, much less on her own. When Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner), a successful Parisienne who teaches a course in Internet navigation at a trade school, finds herself fed up with life in the city, she purchases a goat farm from Adrien (Michel Serrault) and shows them to be wrong.

Or does she? Although Adrien, who stays on at his farm after the sale in an attached cottage, defends Sandrine to the neighboring farmers ("She sells her goat cheese on the internet! To people in Germany!"), and although Sandrine expands the farm to include a popular bed and breakfast inn for tourists, both privately wonder if solitude and sixteen-hour workdays equal a full life for an attractive young single woman. In the beginning, in fact, Adrien spitefully looks forward to Sandrine's failure. But as this determined woman's true industriousness and drive are revealed in her competent management of the farm, he gradually comes to accept and then admire her. Meanwhile Sandrine is paid a visit from an old flame, and their night together triggers feelings she had hoped she didn't have - not about this particular young man, exactly, but about life and companionship in general. She blames Adrien in part, simply because he was right; their relationship is further complicated when the old man suffers a heart attack and comes to the realization that he can no longer imagine life on the farm without her.

A hit in France upon its 2002 release, The Girl from Paris was a César nominee for best first feature film, and judging from his work here director Christian Carion is a natural. He's structured his film brilliantly: the narrative in this, his debut, unfolds with an intuitive grace that many directors never manage over the course of long careers, and he exhibits a precise sense of how long a scene should be held and how much information imparted. At its best, The Girl from Paris conveys substantial economy, skill, and charm.

But working against the film is a belligerently middlebrow aesthetic. (And because I don't wish to sound snobbish in writing that, let me clarify that the problem is not in the "middlebrow" but the "belligerent.") Carion isn't documenting this aesthetic - he's not saying this it how these lives are lead - he's perpetuating it, and he's doing it so defiantly that his film sometimes feels condescending in a weirdly inverted way. The Girl from Paris is artful, but it's never "arty" - Carion is very pointed about this. It feels as though he's set out to make an excellent example of a "good" movie in reaction to films that aspire to more, and you can feel the chip on his shoulder throughout.

Like its no-nonsense heroine, The Girl from Paris feels a little cold in the end. It's a beautiful work visually, and I enjoyed parts of it very much. And Serrault, playing Adrien, is a marvel. (In France his reputation is comparable to that of Jon Voight's or Christopher Walken's, and justifiably so.) But the movie excluded me at a basic level from its opening scenes on; when it was over, I felt as though I'd never made it in.

The Girl from Paris is newly available, with deleted scenes and a "making of" short, from Koch Lorber DVD.

Aka Une hirondelle a fait le printemps.



The Girl From Paris

Facts and Figures

Run time: 103 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 5th September 2001

Distributed by: Koch Lorber Films

Production compaines: Cofimage 12

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 38 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Starring: as Adrien, as Sandrine Dumez, Jean-Paul Roussillon as Jean, as Gérard

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