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Visit to a Green Planet

A female traveler from a perfectly evolved alien planet visits contemporary Paris with bemusing results in "Visit to a Green Planet." Agreeable exercise in contrasting the harmony of nature with the often cranky veneer of civilization should have near-universal appeal for children and may tickle their parents, although pic's overall tone is so serene and peculiar that offshore sales could pose problems.

With:
Mila... Coline Serreau Max...Vincent Lindon Florence... Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu Mesaje... James Thierree

A female traveler from a perfectly evolved alien planet visits contemporary Paris with bemusing results in “Visit to a Green Planet.” Agreeable exercise in contrasting the harmony of nature with the often cranky veneer of civilization should have near-universal appeal for children and may tickle their parents, although pic’s overall tone is so serene and peculiar that offshore sales could pose problems.

Pic starts with the annual “planetary reunion” of self-actualized people of all ages, sharing noncompetitive good vibes in a gorgeous green field in the mountains. As participants exchange news, we learn that volunteers are needed to travel to other planets for mutually beneficial cultural exchange. Nobody, however, is the least bit interested in visiting Earth.

The last visitors went to a place called France during a revolution, which was admirable but was followed by a rapid decline involving industrialization. A 150-year-old mother of five named Mila (scripter-helmer Coline Serreau) volunteers to help speed Earth’s progress.

Mila arrives on Earth with two telepathic “programs” encoded in her brain. The milder program prompts Earthlings to question their surroundings and behavior. The super-duper program initiates a crash course in accelerated self-knowledge and utopian redemption. Mila’s thought-transmission process is so powerful that when she “calls” the folks back home, computers and appliances go haywire all over Paris.

Mila goes in search of newborn babies to “recharge her energy” and, while cradling an abandoned infant in a maternity ward, confronts imperious head of obstetrics Dr. Max (Vincent Lindon). One blast from Mila’s telepathic program and the doc becomes a sensitive and receptive human, agreeing to provide a home base for the alien interloper. Ensuing action centers on rescuing the abandoned infant from the clutches of welfare workers making it a sort of “Three Aliens, Three Earthlings and a Baby” from the director of “Three Men and a Cradle.”

Pic is peppered with charming gags, but the story arc is soft, with little of the bite that made Serreau’s previous film, “La Crise,” so zingy. Lensing, particularly in the opening sequence, expertly conveys the sweet and eerie aura of a distant and better world, only to contrast it with a crowded, hostile city. Good sound design reinforces the offbeat mood. The wildly versatile classical quartet Le Quatuor makes a zany onscreen contribution that some may find overlong.

Some of the pic’s music was performed and orchestrated by American composer David Hogan, who died in the crash of Paris-bound TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island in July. Hogan had also composed and orchestrated music for Serreau’s most recent stage plays.

Visit to a Green Planet

(LA BELLE VERTE)

Production: (FRENCH) An AMLF release of a Les Films Alain Sarde/TFI Films production, with participation of the Languedoc-Roussillon Region, Canal Plus, Studio Images 2. (International sales: Studio Canal Plus, Paris.) Produced by Alain Sarde. Executive producer, Christine Gozlan. Directed, written by Coline Serreau. Camera (color, widescreen), Robert Alazraki; editor, Catherine Renault; music, Coline Serreau; production design, Guy-Claude Francois; art direction, Rene Albouze; costume design, Karen Muller; sound (Dolby), Guillaume Sciama, Dominique Dalmasso; assistant director, Elisabeth Parniere; casting, Margot Capelier. Reviewed at Gaumont Ambassade cinema, Paris, Aug. 27, 1996. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Mila... Coline Serreau Max...Vincent Lindon Florence... Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu Mesaje... James ThierreeWith: Samuel Tasinaje, Paul Crauchet, Marion Cotillard, Claire Keim, Catherine Samie, Olivier Broche, Armelle, Patrick Timsit, Didier Flamand.

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