Anyone who knows me knows that World War I is obviously my favorite war. The trenches, the tactical fuckups, the mud, the arbitrariness of the whole thing—it's a sublimely affecting disaster. It's also, as it turns out, the ideal context for a gloomy fairy tale. What villain's home turf is scarier than the skeletal trees and sucking mud on the front? Um, Baba Yaga's chicken hut? Fuckin' Mordor? Please.

Serge Bozon's La France tracks a young woman named Camille (Sylvie Testud—capable but hard to relate to) through the alternately blasted and beautiful terrain of 1917 France. After her husband, who's far away at war, sends her an abrupt letter of dismissal ("You will never see me again"), Camille sets out to prove him wrong, disguising herself as a boy and falling in with a ragged band of soldiers.

The film is much more an odd hero's journey than a war story: Every interaction and long, slow, moonlit shot is tinged with fairy-tale symbolism (a cave, a white horse, a black horse, a mossy forest, a secret). The soldiers dream of getting to Holland—they hope it will be like Atlantis.

La France came to Northwest Film Forum as part of its Art House Film Coalition (jokingly referred to, programming director Adam Sekuler told me, as the Coalition of the Willing)—a program dedicated to distributing independent, regional films worldwide. If it weren't for the Film Forum, you'd never get the chance to see La France. Now it's opening in 10 theaters around the country.

The most unusual thing about La France—I almost forgot—is that it's a musical. A weird, magical, World War I MUSICAL. Periodically (not often enough!) the soldiers pause, inhale, and ease into sweet, jangly pop songs about a blind girl and faraway love. It's weird and lovely and only the French could pull it off.