The Girl from Paris Review
Sick of the Parisian rat race, Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner) quits her well-paid IT job and starts a two-year course to become a farmer. At the end of the two years, she emerges ready to take over an isolated farm on the Vercors plateau but the former owner, the embittered Adrien (Michel Serrault), still living in the farm house watches the proceedings with a sceptical eye. Although he secretly hopes someone will keep the farm alive for another generation, his pessimistic nature tells him that Sandrine will not last longer than a year alone in this rough environment.
Writer/Director Christian Carion infused his own experience of growing up on a farm and training new farmers into the script and has managed to make this début an all-round success. With an experienced lead like Michel Serrault who has played almost every single role imaginable over his career (mass-murderers, ageing gay cabaret singers, crooked cops and many, many bitter old men) and an apt feminine presence in the shape of Mathilde Seigner (Emmanuelle Seigner's younger sister), the film manages to avoid most of the potential clichés that can arise easily from films treating a gender/generational clash. Granted Serrault's acting style is an acquired taste but in this role (his first role as a farmer) he manages to stretch himself a little more than usual and manages to make himself into a believable character rather than a "Serraultesque" character... Seigner also does very well though one can assume that both the actress and the character are suffering from the same form of culture shock, making it a slightly easier role to play. The rest of the cast is rather sparse given the setting but Jean-Paul Roussillon puts in an excellent performance as Adrien's best friend and almost steals the limelight in each scene he appears in.
From the opening shots taken from a bird's eye view to the edgy editing and unusual camera angles, the cinematography creatively makes its' mark on the film but thankfully manages to be simple and sober when needed. Globally the film suceeds in what it is trying to achieve and doesn't gloss over the harsh reality of farming in France at the dawn of the new millenium.
BBFC cuts:It should be noted that some scenes may be quite upsetting to animal-lovers but thankfully the BBFC did not cut these scenes out (though I'm certain they weren't faked) as they were an integral part of the film and couldn't have been realistically removed without predjudicing the film as a whole.
The DVD:The image and the subtitles:The image is rather good - the print reveals little in way of specks or dust and artificating is only visible on close inspection of some backgrounds. The naturalistic colour scheme is also respected though I did find the image slightly lacking in sharpness at times. As usual, AE have supplied us with an anamorphic transfer and the OAR is also respected. The subtitles are non-compulsory and can be turned on and off on the fly. They did seem to be rather strange looking to me - they were slightly too blocky for my liking - but the size is acceptable and the translation was spot on for most of the film bar the annoying tendancy that some translators have of translating the likes of "putain de merde" as "f-ing hell" - which is rather too strong in that context.
The menus:The usual basic AE deal - a small snippet from the film plays in the background as you make your choices.
Extras:AE are doing quite well at going beyond the bare-bones approach they gave most of their early releases and have included a 30 minute-long featurette which comes full subtitled and follows Christian Carion around the set some time after the film has been released. It mixes local people's recounting their involvement with the film (coaching the actors, renting the setting...) and Carion's remembrance of the writing the script, choosing the setting and much more. A very good extra and worthy inclusion.
Added to this there's a long text interview with Carion which is also worth a read and we get the compulsory cast & crew filmographies and the French trailer (subtitled in English) - it's probably best avoiding the trailer as it gives a little too much of the plot away to my liking though there's no major spoilers included. Though the 2 DVD French release has many more extras (deleted scenes, outtakes, behind the scenes), it may be an overkill for what is after all a relatively simple film. The completists may go for the French release (but only the main feature is subtitled in English) but I suspect most will be more than happy with the AE release...
Conclusion:It's nice to see AE include decent extras with their DVDs though it's a shame they didn't include the 5.1 mix included on the French release, it's a good release of an interesting piece of French cinema...