Najac Calling Over to You, Earth

If you're looking for a 200-egg omelet, a vintner who's been crushing grapes with his feet for half a century or a stationmaster who "proves" the superiority of the franc to the euro by placing one of each coin on the rails and letting a train flatten them, then you'll relish the leisurely insights in "Najac Calling Over to You, Earth."

With:
With: Henri Sauzeau, Serge Itkine, Samuel Itkine, Arnaud Barre, Henri Darde, Simone Darde, Jean-Louis Raffy, Jacky Dejonghe, Christopher Gillard, Robert Roussel, Hubert Bouyssiere, Dominique Saouly, Christian Lombard.

If you’re looking for a 200-egg omelet, a vintner who’s been crushing grapes with his feet for half a century or a stationmaster who “proves” the superiority of the franc to the euro by placing one of each coin on the rails and letting a train flatten them, then you’ll relish the leisurely insights in “Najac Calling Over to You, Earth.” Video diarist Jean-Henri Meunier continues to prove it’s possible to lead a full, meaningful life in rural France in this more subdued follow-up to his lilting 2004 gem “La Vie comme elle va.”

The cinematic equivalent of sipping homemade lemonade on a balmy afternoon, gentle, modest “Najac Calling” hits French cinemas June 7 following Cannes preem.

Former urbanite Meunier, who relocated to the title village in Southwestern France in 1995, resumes chronicling the lives of his effortlessly entertaining neighbors in this current venture. While one is happy to re-visit the same cast of real-life characters — much as with Agnes Varda’s doc “Two Years Later,” the sequel to her instant classic “The Gleaners and I”– it’s difficult to top perfection the second time around.

Whether they are birthing calves, kneading bread or driving all the way from Najac to Bamako, Mali, on a humanitarian aid mission, the good folk of Najac live in harmony and symbiosis with nature. Homespun wisdom (“We’ve gone from industrious to industrial, hence all our problems with the food supply”) coexists with borderline surreal pursuits.

It’s heartbreaking when authorities forcibly clear away mechanical genius Henri’s beloved car carcasses; bracing when locals — most of whom rely on the soil for their livelihood — protest the prospect of Najac being used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. Denizens derive satisfaction from tending, growing, baking, harvesting and repairing things with their own hands, using basic tools, elbow grease and human ingenuity.

Vet editor Yves Deschamps sifted through mountains of rushes, assembling the intimate, keenly lensed vignettes into a low-key but engaging portrait of people and animals at one with the universe.

Najac Calling Over to You, Earth

France

Production: An Ocean Distribution release of a Little Bear presentation of a Little Bear, Artistic Images production. (International sales: Roissy Films, Paris.) Produced by Frederic Bourboulon, Agnes Le Pont. Executive producer, Katiene Delzant. Co-producer, Armand Azoulay. Directed by Jean-Henri Meunier.

Crew: Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Jean-Henri Meunier; editor, Yves Deschamps; sound (Dolby), Patrick Ghislain, Gadou Naudin, Stratos Gabrielidis. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (non-competing), May 18, 2006. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Henri Sauzeau, Serge Itkine, Samuel Itkine, Arnaud Barre, Henri Darde, Simone Darde, Jean-Louis Raffy, Jacky Dejonghe, Christopher Gillard, Robert Roussel, Hubert Bouyssiere, Dominique Saouly, Christian Lombard.

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