Buying the Farm 

A Gallic gal goes gaga for goats in The Girl from Paris.

If you're feeling a hankering for a little bucolic European splendor with your trendy girl-power manifesto, you may be reasonably satisfied with The Girl from Paris (Une hirondelle a fait le printemps). The actual French title translates to something like A Swallow Makes Springtime, but let's not worry about that. Since we've already seen smashing examples of young girls "bending" soccer balls and riding whales this year, it's a little more worthy of concern whether or not we can become intrigued by the concept of a thirty-year-old woman with a big nest egg turning a profit in agriculture. Alors, if you like pretty imagery of the Alps along with your feminine empowerment, there are probably worse ways to spend 104 minutes.

This project begins with a glorious shot of a winding Alpine road that then swoops off the edge into soaring mountain vistas. Hearing echoes of Gandalf & Co. shouting at the Balrog from deep within the rocks makes this sort of thing a lot more interesting, but, alas, a mythic journey this is not. Rather, we get composer Philippe Rombi (Under the Sand) delivering what sounds like a hodgepodge of his favorite heartwarming outtakes from The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie as we plummet toward the congested Parisian existence of Sandrine (Mathilde Seigner).

Boo hoo, poor Sandrine. She has made a load of money as an Internet instructor and has decided that what she really wants is to own a big chunk of property with goats all over it. This concept makes her mother cry in despair, but nonetheless Sandrine takes a few moments of our time to earn a two-year degree in agricultural studies. "Anyone who wants to make goat cheese and play guitar can go home now," warns her stern instructor, but Sandrine stands firm: After all, she clearly has no interest in playing guitar. Before we know it, she has purchased the goat farm of salty old Monsieur Rochas, whose wife died ten years prior, leaving him alone to squeeze udders in his surly old way. Naturally, since this story would focus exclusively on yuppie territorial conquest if Sandrine got the farm with no complications, Rochas stipulates that he must remain in residence for a period of eighteen months, until he can move into a family dwelling in Grenoble.

Thus begins something that is more or less like a narrative, wherein Sandrine does business and enjoys pretty views, wandering around the picturesque bluffs like Julie Andrews with a paraglider fetish and significantly more ruminants underfoot. She transforms the old farm into a tourist getaway called Les Balcons du Ciel (Balconies of the Sky) and hosts other yuppies who enjoy riding horses and talking about riding horses. In addition to that Web site, she creates another by which she can market her goat cheese to lactose-loving Germans. All in all, she appears to have a very nice time, with only minimal struggles.

One bit that's very strange, though -- apart from anyone wanting to eat curdled goat secretions in the first place -- is her relationship with her ex-beau Gérard (Frédéric Pierrot). Although she goes to great lengths to stress her autonomy and complete control of everything around her, when Gérard drops in -- and this actor is so actorly he may as well have the word "ACTOR" tattooed across his broad forehead -- she joins him for a little groovy love to strains of Phil frickin' Collins. As if that weren't disturbing enough, the next morning she coyly explains, "I didn't get much sleep, but I feel good," then when he tries to kiss her again, she coldly tells him that good things are best enjoyed in moderation. Are Europeans really this gauche?

Much of the rest of the film takes place in wintertime and feels like an acting workshop called Curmudgeon Meets Busybody. (Those who have access to the similarly-themed Swedish film Under the Sun are heartily cajoled to view it instead; it's subtler, sweeter, sexier, and more intimate.) Rochas' corpulent senior friend Jean (Jean-Paul Roussillon) stops in to chew the fat, and Rochas' constant chewing of actual fat gets him into some serious health problems, but mostly we get the chilly young woman and the chilly old man gradually thawing each other out. There's a nice little accordion waltz, but whatever. She then returns to Paris and balances out all the fascinating aspects of her fascinating life. Whee.

A word to the queasy: If you don't enjoy watching pigs and cows being murdered in graphic close-up, or goats arduously giving birth, this is not the movie for you. However, if you enjoy films written without much personality or bite, this movie will leave you positively tickled with its steadfast dedication to blandness.

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