Girl from Paris, The

A surprise hit in France, Christian Carion’s The Girl from Paris opens with fulsome vistas of the French countryside and then cuts to its heroine, Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner), stuck in a Paris traffic jam. The point being made by this juxtaposition of opposites is so obvious that one breathes a sigh of relief when it becomes apparent that Carion is perfectly aware of the cliches he is playing with. The same holds true of Sandrine, whose decision to leave Paris and the security of a job in computing to become a farmer may be idealistic but is not something she takes lightly. An intelligent and physically robust young woman who hankers after a different life, Sandrine is determined to make a success of her new venture. Any illusions she may harbour about the realities of farming are soon dispelled by her hands-on training, which includes the messy slaughter of a pig.
After qualifying, Sandrine sets about purchasing a remote goat farm that’s being sold by the ageing Adrien (Michel Serrault), a die-hard traditionalist who has nothing but contempt for newfangled approaches to agriculture. Sandrine has to accommodate the old codger for eighteen months because his retirement plans are delayed, and at the heart of the film is the growing relationship between this unlikely pair. Ignoring Adrien’s jibes, Sandrine proves her worth by making a success of the goat farm, and gradually earns the old man’s grudging respect. In fact, Adrien comes to value Sandrine’s presence so much that he sabotages her electricity supply in winter, thus forcing her to live in his house.
Himself a country boy who clearly knows of what he speaks, Carion provides a refreshingly realistic yet never dour portrait of country life, acknowledging its hardships (there’s even a reference to the awful consequences of mad-cow disease) as much as its attractions. The relationship between Sandrine and Adrien never hits a false note, and the film’s crystal-clear images prove yet again that tyro directors should think twice before reaching for their video cameras. In short, a wonderful first film.
France, 2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 103 mins.

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