Jean de Florette by Marcel Pagnol and adapted for the big screen
Another version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:
This is a first for me.
So far, the notes posted here have been about books, with subjects ranging from psychology to fiction.
For some years now, I have added to the original interests comments on plays, mostly adapted for The BBC or The Romanian National Radio.
And this note refers mostly to a film.
It is one of the best I have ever seen, up there with The Godfather (I and II), Fanny and Alexander and the more recently added Toni Erdmann and Leviathan.
As such, I think it is only proper to write an impression on a chef d’oeuvre that surely merits praise and does justice to the original material.
The cast of this masterpiece has no rival:
- Yves Montand is "magnifique" as Cesar Soubeyran, a malevolent last member of his clan; Daniel Auteuil is brilliant as the nephew Ugolin, in love in the second part –Manon de Sources- with
- Manon who is played with the same outstanding skill by the then wife of Daniel Auteuil Emmanuelle Beart
- The title role gives the chance of a fabulous performance to Gerard Depardieu, in the days when he was a wondrous actor and not the challenged Russian citizen of today, a friend of a tyrant.
The themes are poignant and the plot keeps the reader or the audience captivated and mesmerized to the end.
We have the family of the Soubeyrans that have plenty of money, but their greed is their dominant characteristic.
They want to have a land that belongs to a neighbor and a conflict is sparked by their demand, with tragic results.
In a fight, the neighbor dies and this is just the start of a series of devious, heinous manoeuvers orchestrated by the cunning Cesar Soubeyran, also known as Le Papet, who plays the puppeteer for the simple minded Ugolin.
After the death of the neighbor, the inheritance belongs to a “bossu” who comes to the village with his wife and daughter.
Jean de Florette, for he is the “bossu”, plays a majestic part in this masterpiece, with an enthusiasm that deserves a better fate.
He may be the epitome of the exaggerated optimist; his positivity may be related to that of the famous- or infamous- Pangloss.
Nevertheless, I just feel that the man acted with energy, determination, grit, enterprise and exuberance.
True, at times he was overconfident and took the wrong advice from some books, misguided by the apparently friendly Ugolin.
In the shadows, the Machiavellian Papet knew that the rabbits, the plans made by Jean de Florette would not work.
Amid all this tragedy, with greed, dishonor, ruthlessness, jealousy, envy, selfishness, treason and falsity, we have the family and the figure of Jean de Florette who stands and eventually would fly like an angel from amidst those cruel villains.
For it is not just the Souberayns that keep mum about the water that is on the land and Jean de Florette so desperately needs, but almost all the village is aware of it and says nothing to the man that they see as an “alien” and symbol of bad luck, seeing that he is a humpback and they are ignorant and superstitious.
A scene is relevant for their attitude, wherein the family of the desperate Jean walks through the village as the men play petanque.
One of them takes the ball and aims, but not at the normal target, but at a pool of mud and the dirt falls on the clothes of the family, with Jean getting mad and ready to through the ball back, into the face of the villain.
The others comment:
- You should have thrown it at his back
To end in a light, humorous note:
Jean de Florette talks to his enemy- that pretends to be a friend- Ugolin and he uses a vocabulary that betrays his good education and generous, compassionate, positive views of the world and humankind:
- I want to live here in the countryside and cultivate the authentic
Poor Ugolin thinks authentic is a plant