Petit Paysan | Bloody Milk (2017) | Pingyao Film Festival 2017

October 31st, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Writer: Hubert Charuel

When one of his cows falls ill, the farmer does his best to save the rest of his herd in the heartfelt agrarian drama Bloody Milk (Petit Paysan), the genre-bending feature debut of writer director Hubert Charuel.

Social realism wanders in the muddly territory of thriller in this taut but flawed French farming drama, offering up a promising premise that never quite brings home the bacon despite a good script and a stunning central turn from A Woman’s Life star Swann Arlaud) as a dedicated devotee of dairy farming and country living despite its meagre financial rewards.

Pierre (Arlaud), is a gentleman farmer in every sense of the word. He runs a small milk farm concern that comes under threat when one of his herd comes down with a strain of Mad Cows disease a debilitating and highly contagious wasting disease. As we all remember from the sad episode in Britain recently, this is a tragedy that forces the slaughter of the entire herd, under Government guidelines, so Pierre tries to mitigate the damage by killing the cow and burying in his own fields. Problem is, his sister (Sara Giraudeau) is a vet who turns a blind eye at first but once his mother (Candelier) finds out things go from bad to worse, especially when the health inspectors turn up and snoop around.

Written by Charuel and Claude le Pape, this is a heart-rending and doomladen story about a really decent man who tries to do his best by everyone – including his cows – one gives birth in a touching scene – and we all feel for his pain and that of the livestock he so tenderly cares for, but it lacks the dramatic moments to really lift it into the same territory as the Icelandic UCR winner Rams despite some similar humour. Furthermore Petit Paysan has a pejorative ring to it as a title, as many audiences will consider it rather recherché as well a a labour of love to run a small dairy concern in a world where hand made produce is all the rage, and certainly raw milk quite sought after for its health-giving properties. The English gentry during the 18th century often turned their hands to dairy farming – one such example is at Kenwood House in Hampstead, England.


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