Reviews

The Girl From Paris (2001)

Kevin Jagernauth

The Girl From Paris details the ways that farming is lonely and difficult.


The Girl from Paris (Une hirondelle a fait le printemps)

Director: Christian Carion
Cast: Michel Serrault, Mathilde Seigner, Jean-Paul Roussillon
MPAA rating: N/A
Studio: Studio Canal
First date: 2001
US DVD Release Date: 2004-12-07
Once the movie was over, I understood, a bit late, that I had projected myself in the character of Sandrine. A girl who wants to achieve her dream -- for me it was making movies -- who tears herself from her original environment and finds herself all alone.
-- Christian Carion, "Back to the Roots"

The Girl From Paris follows Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner), just turned 30 when she decides to quit her job as an internet instructor and enroll in agricultural school in order to pursue her lifelong dream, to be a farmer. When her classes are finished, she purchases a farm from Adrien (Michel Serrault), who is reluctantly facing retirement. The catch is that the home his nephew is preparing for him isn't ready yet, so Adrien has to stay on the farm for 18 months.

Their relationship follows a typical trajectory. Sandrine, having left behind a good job, a beautiful city, her mother, and her boyfriend Gérard (Frédéric Pierrot), determinedly takes on her new career. At first she seems unaffected by her solitary lifestyle, until Gérard arrives, hoping to win her back. With his presence, her home turns almost vibrant with life, now lit up in the evening, with music from the stereo pouring out the windows. Too stubborn to admit her loneliness, she doesn't reveal she's glad he came until he's about to leave. Sandrine's determination is admirable, even to the bitter Adrien, who defends her in a local pub. Sandrine, however, rejects any support, from Adrien or Gerard.

Widowed for 10 years, Adrien is also lonely, and now he realizes that he's not quite ready to leave the only life he has ever known. Watching Sandrine through his kitchen window, he starts muttering to himself, noting what he perceives to be her mistakes. In occasional meetings with his friend Jean (Jean-Paul Rousillon), Adrien articulates his misgivings. He believes the farm is his, and expects Sandrine eventually to give up. He simply can't accept that his land and livestock are in the hands of another. To give up the farm means acknowledging he's entered the last phase of his life. He fears death, having witnessed his wife's long, painful passing. In one poignant scene, he goes to church to ask God the favor of taking him quickly, so he won't have to endure her fate.

The film's central tension, then, is more generational than personal. Technically savvy Sandrine transforms a building on her new property into a hotel and starts attracting customers through a website, thus turning the working farm into a kitschy attraction. Adrien is offended by tourists observing his lifestyle as an idyllic curiosity.

It's not surprising that the generational gap and details of farming are so well observed, given Carion's own background. In the DVD's excellent half-hour featurette, "Back to the Roots," he revisits the farms that served as sets for the film, discussing the process of the bringing this story to the screen. he says that his father was the template for Adrien, and Carion worked on a farm for many years before turning to filmmaking. He articulates his sense of the connections between his two careers, describing both as isolated professions: "It's true that when you're a director, you're alone. Completely alone. Even if your crew is very attentive and very supportive... it's still your personal story, your emotions, your desires, your dream. It's really strange because sometimes you're surrounded with a lot of people... you're very much in demand, but at the same time, you're alone."

The Girl From Paris underlines this sentiment, detailing the ways that farming is lonely and difficult. Carion is clearly familiar with the vocation, translating the difficulties of farming in images that are sometimes quite graphic (for instance, animals being killed). The film is less convincing when depicting Sandrine and Adrien's passive-aggressive interactions. Their refusals to speak to one another make for long silences that are frustrating for this viewer. And yet, at last, their separate loneliness gives way to mutual respect. As Sadnrine explores Adrien's scrapbooks and photo albums, she learns the history of the farm and in turn, he comes to appreciate her dedication, even in extreme weather, to farming her land. As they come to understand one another, the changes in their lives don't seem so different.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image