JEAN DE FLORETTE
DIRECTOR: CLAUDE BERRI
COUNTRY: FRANCE 1987
NOVEL BY: MARCEL PAGNOL
CAST: YVES MONTAND, GERARD DEPARDIEU, DANIEL AUTEIL
SUPER FEATURES: THE ACTING
Every once in a while a great pair of films comes along. JEAN DE FLORETTE and MANON OF THE SPRING are just such a pair.
With a lot of the French dramatic slowness in these films, the story will eventually grab you. It won't be until the last thirty minutes of MANON that you can quite understand what is going on, but until then you keep wondering, where, what, and why are things happening the way they are. There are some striking similarities between these films and the serialized soap operas found on television. In many ways, the twists and turns are all the same, and the wrenches thrown in at various moments do not help the characters very much. They make the whole thing more difficult.
An educated young man, inherits a farm, and moves in from the city. The people who worked the farm before don't like the young man's ideas, and proceed to do anything and everything they can to make sure he does not succeed. And they do it by making sure that the season's drought conditions continue by plugging up the main well, which also feeds water to the town. The young man is a hunchback, has a wife and two kids. His fight for survival is magnanimous on all accounts, but eventually it ends in tragedy. He is the outsider, is ugly, is educated, and has no place in the country telling the folk how to grow anything in their farms. The young daughter Manon, at the age of six or seven, finds out that the old man and his accomplice have in fact plugged the well, and are planning to wait for the verdict of the courts who will decide
to whom the property will go, and who will take care of it. However, the girl is young, she's the black sheep, and her family is dead.
Gerard Depardieu is the city man and hunchback with many ideas, all which work and are sensible, but he is the representative of the new order of things, and the failed old order rejects him.
And Yves Montand is the old farmer, whose attitude is downright abusive, but also charming. He is as sneaky as he is nice to the young children, and the town folk who admire him for being the best farmer, and at one time the best lover.
This first part is innocent enough, though now something is established with MANON.
Although a bit slow of a film and it has subtitles, this is an excellent film and should be seen by anyone who appreciates great film making. It is similar in many ways (to my eyes) to a David Lean film, in that the shot composition is pretty and nicely done. And the country side is beautiful.
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