Jean de Florette
1986 – Italy / France – 122 min. – Colour
Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, elisabeth Depardieu, ernestine Mazurowna, Marcel Champel, emmanuelle Beart
Director Claude Berri took a novel by Marcel Pagnol and turned it into two of the best known and best loved French historical dramas. The true hero (or villain) of both films is really the Provencal landscape, deliberately and majestically shot by Berri to dwarf the human figures that deign to leave their mark on it. The cast, led by Gérard Depardieu (staking his claim as one of the finest film actors of his generation), though, is undaunted and their performances is an object lesson in pace, power and control.
Gérard Depardieu plays Jean Cadoret, the hunchback from the city who assumes ownership of a vital spring when the original owner is accidentally killed by covetous farmer Cesar Soubeyran (Yves Montand). But Cadoret does not have it all his own way and as the antagonism between him and the dangerously malicious (but not unlikable) Soubeyran subtly develops, we become increasingly aware that while Soubeyran will probably win this battle, retribution may yet prevent him from winning the war.
Retribution is indeed duly delivered amidst all-consuming tragedy in Manon des Sources by the hand of Cadoret’s daughter, Manon, beautifully played by emmanuelle Beart. Cadoret is now dead and Manon, a lonely shepherdess, wants revenge on those responsible at any price. While the plot of the basic story itself may be melodramatically domestic in scale, the quality, depth and endearing quirkiness of both cast and production give the film a compelling universality.