Jean-Claude Brisseau’s The Girl from Nowhere (La fille de nulle part, 2012) feels more like the work of a first-time director than a seasoned French auteur, partly due to its low budget and bloated, pseudo-intellectualist themes. The story opens with a quote from Hugo’s Les Misérables, in what is the first of many literary, artistic and philosophical references. We then meet Michel Deviliers (played by Brisseau) who is penning his tome inspired by events during the French communist riots of 1968. He’s disturbed by shouting outside, leading him to rescue a nubile blonde, Dora (Virginie Legeay), from being beaten up by a thug.
This self-proclaimed ‘sorceress’ ends up becoming Deviliers’ attractive muse, helping him to finish his novel. That’s when the ‘bumps in the night’ begin to occur, and a series of strange happenings start to draw the academic away from his work. Part supernatural thriller, part philosophical treatise, the general thrust of The Girl from Nowhere lacks narrative cohesion, tremendously inhibited as it is by its wooden performances. There’s also Brisseau’s use of sex and nudity in the film. Rather than being used to enhance specific plot or themes, the baring of flesh (and further) appears to be designed purely to titillate and delight male audiences, adding a sleazy element to the movie that simply wasn’t necessary.
There’s an undeniable air of pomposity to the whole feature, pushed to the extreme by the fact that The Girl from Nowhere was partly shot in Brisseau’s own home – adorned with all the typical accoutrements of a member of the intelligentsia – with the camera lingering on books by Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham (not to mention the director’s own VHS and DVD collection). There’s almost a touch of comedy to it all, where it’s difficult to determine whether this self-deprecation is intended or unintentional. Either way, it’s deeply ineffective.
Whilst not completely without ambition, The Girl from Nowhere feels like a folly art project faulted from the start, Brisseau’s self-indulgent meanderings acting as a barrier to any engagement between his work and its potential audience. Ultimately, there’s a distinct alienating tone to the entire, long-winded affair. As much as Brisseau may want to plunge head-first into the deeper depths of human existence through our various belief systems, he merely dips his toe into the shallowest of waters.