It's hard to know exactly for what audience The Girl from Paris is intended. But this lack of narrative calculation may be one of the best reasons to consider seeing the film.
The story concerns Sandrine, a completely ordinary Parisian who decides to quit her stifling, "new economy" job as an Internet instructor and takes farming lessons instead. We see a number of scenes of her agricultural education, courtesy of French governmental policies that seem designed to encourage young city-dwellers to replenish that great culinary nation's aging farmer population. After completing her coursework, the 30-year-old Sandrine then purchases the goat dairy farm of a cranky old coot named Adrien. This resolutely charmless character has defiantly refused to sell out to agribusiness interests but is also perversely uninterested in making Sandrine's life easier.
An odd, querulous relationship ensues, but the film resists the softening, sentimental impulses of the Hollywood weepie--this is no "save the farm" melodrama. Instead, the film is after chillier truths about our relationship with the cyclical forces of nature, that of birth, maturation, death and renewal. Sandrine's life in the modern economy has no beginning or end--it's just a job with very obscure connections to human necessity.
But her life in the country turns out not to be an endless picture postcard of golden harvests. Instead, the harsh weather and loneliness become dominant features of her existence. Furthermore, the film doesn't shy away from the facts of animal slaughter--there are several graphic scenes that appear to be unsimulated.
The Girl from Paris turns out to be doggedly earnest and uncool in the manner of a John Sayles film, but the ending is an unexpected poetic triumph. The only regrettable thing about this film's long-delayed American release is its title, which is a very poor substitute for the French: Une hirondelle a fait le printemps (One Swallow Brought Spring). --David Fellerath
The Girl from Paris will screen for one week only at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, beginning Friday, July 4.