Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Jean de Florette

Jean de Florette is one of those films that I'd long been aware of but had somehow never got around to watching. It tells the story of lawyer Jean who inherits a house and a plot of land in the French countryside. He decides to move there with his family to get away from the city life and start afresh, getting back to basics and living off the land and the fruits of his own labour. He has grand plans.

Unbeknown to him, though, a couple of locals have their own plans for the land, and they block up the spring that irrigates his property, rendering his plans all but useless, in the hopes that he will pack up and go home. But Jean is not easily dissuaded from pursuing his dream. The film tells the tale of Jean's continuing efforts and his interactions with the community at large.

The community is mistrusting of the stranger among them: his being a city lawyer is not the worst of it; he's a hunchback, too, and that means bad luck, plain and simple. Of course, there is another whole load of background stuff that some of the characters know about and others don't, but I don't want to reveal too much here.

The acting in this film is first-class. I know Gérard Depardieu has become something of a cliché over the years, but he puts in a tour de force performance as Jean. And the "bad guys", an uncle-and-nephew duo played to perfection by Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil respectively, really make your skin crawl as they become more and more vindictive in their plotting.

I had never imagined how beautiful a film this would be -- one of the best I have seen in a long time. It is a rich and moving piece of work that immediately draws you under its spell. And when it ends, you know you have to rush out and grab a copy of the sequel, Manon des Sources, ASAP.

Acting: 16
Story: 17
Direction: 16
Enjoyment: 17
Involvement: 18
Total: 84

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