A truly impressive French film destined to become a modern masterpiece, Jean de Florette is an evocative adaptation of the highly regarded French novel. Two 1920s farmers engage in a bitter rivalry as one tries to tend to ... more »a plot of land and the other deviously undermines his efforts in order to conceal a valuable spring. The peasant farmer (Gérard Depardieu) who comes to the countryside to tend the land he has inherited is a naive and trusting soul seeking only to provide for his wife and daughter, while his neighbor (Yves Montand) is intent on doing whatever he can to discourage and demoralize the farmer so that he can take the land for himself. This simple tale unfolds in a wrenching fashion to a tragic conclusion, bringing forth questions about human nature and the prevalence and price of greed. Along with its follow-up, Manon of the Spring, this film will leave an indelible impression on anyone who sees it. --Robert Lane« less
"The acting--pick any of the three stars, Yves Montand, Gerard Depardieu, Daniel Auteuil--is superb, and the supporting cast excellent. But what makes this and its sequel, Manon des Sources (1986), jewels of the French cinema is the story and the characterizations, which go hand in hand.
There is genius in how naturally and almost inevitably the story unfolds. Although I haven't read the novel by Marcel Pagnol, I'm sure he's the genius. And this is not to slight Claude Berri's direction which is invisible and at the same time in total control, so that the film is simply a work of art. The characters are true to themselves, and what they do seems natural because of who they are. Jean Florette (Depardieu) fails because he puts too much faith in science, knowledge and the good will and fairness of his fellow man. (He should have listened to his suspicious wife!) Ugolin (Auteuil), whose selfishness and little guy envy lead him to do the harm that he does, is not a despicable character. We do not hate him the way Manon understandably does. He is a man of weakness who gave into greed. Papet (Montand), believes in the lineage of man, in property, money-all the standard burgher values. He is led to do his dirty deeds because of who he is.
What is so, so superior in "Florette" compared to most movies is the lack of propaganda, the lack of adherence to some political or philosophic preconception. What shines forth is people living their lives and falling into some very human traps. I am reminded of Balzac and Guy De Maupassant in the depiction of the petit bourgeois life of the French peasantry and attendant psychology."
A Perfectly Haunting Film
Stephen M. Kerwick | Wichita, KS United States | 08/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the film that got me on to French cinema. Actually, I made a mistake and watched Manon of the Springs first, but still found de Florette stunning. Perhaps the need to rely on subtitles combined with my very, very poor French forces a better level of attention and use of the mind. More likely, this work is just so stunning in concept and execution that it left an indelible impression. In any event, I was so spellbound by the Marcel Pagnol story and Claude Berri film that I couldn't rest until a few weeks later, when I found the novel during a business trip to LA (this was before Amazon). Surprisingly, the film made every essential point contained in the written work, even in the short time available and nothing crucial was missed.This film reminds me of someone's quotation about Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac: it's not a great play, merely a perfect one. The performance by Yves Montand, sadly his last, as the elderly patriarch of a dying out peasant clan was monumental. Depardieu is excellent, but that's nothing unusual. What is unusual is that he still excels in a film where the other actors are the real focuses of attention. In every way this movie is the polar opposite of the standard dreck that comes out of Hollywood. If I had the opportunity, I would rate it at 25 stars instead of 5. My only caution is that it is necessary to also see Manon of the Springs to get the whole story, but that's no burden at all, since the second film is almost as perfect."
One of the most heartbreakingly beautiful films ever made
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 06/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the first half of a two-part movie, the second half being MANON OF THE SPRING. One of the things I love about this movie is that you don't really realize what it is about until the very end of the second film. When you reach that point, and all secrets have been revealed, the story that the film tells is seen to be both extraordinarily beautiful and horrifically tragic. The first film is a story of pure rapacious greed that stoops to subterfuge and cruelty to obtain its desires. Yves Montand, in the last great achievement in a remarkable career, plays a grower who covets the water on an adjoining property, and with the help of his subservient relative Daniel Auteuil, they plot to frustrate the attempts of the land's new tenant, a middle-class hunchback named Jean de Florette, played by Gérard Depardieu, to work the property. Jean, who is goodhearted, generous, and kind, is a firm believer in scientific principles, and hopes to make a success by applying the most up-to-date methods in his efforts. Unbeknownst to him, the spring that was to provide him with most of his water is blocked by his neighbors, and his experiment is doomed to failure, with tragic consequences.The plot of the two films is one of the best I know of in the past several decades, but unfortunately to relate it would be unfair to those who have not seen the film. I'll content myself with saying that the film contains several major surprises, but surprises that are not there simply for the sake of shocking, but fulfill the potential of the story as a whole, and give the film a rich and deep significance.Gérard Depardieu is extraordinary as the unhappy Jean de Florette, and Yves Montand despicable as Le Papet, the neighbor. Although throughout most of his career known as a sophisticated, debonair, and charismatic leading man, in this film Montand plays completely against type. He is thoroughly convincing as a covetous, petty, and vicious rustic. This film can definitely be seen on its own, apart from MANON OF THE SPRING, but one must remember that doing so will leave many hidden aspects unexplored and resolved. Together, these two movies represent one of the great cinematic experiences of the past couple of decades."
Two of my favorite movies of all time
FW | Pasadena, CA USA | 06/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jean De Florette and its sequel Manon of the Spring deserve all of the accolades and heart-felt praises you read here and elsewhere. I loved them as a 17-year old after stumbling across a special broadcast on PBS, and I love them today as a 29-year old recapturing the magic on DVD.It doesn't get any better than this, folks. These films are simply bursting at the seams with poignant lessons on humanity. One which I admire the most is the tax collector-turned farmer's (Gerard Depardieu) single-minded perseverance to realize his dream. One might argue that he selfishly ignored the well being of his wife and child in pursuing his dream. But I contend that he would not have chosen this path had he thought for one second that his family did not share the same passion. In fact, we observe nothing but unwavering love and support from his wife and child. For you travel lovers out there, is there a better way to immerse yourself in life in a quaint French village without leaving the comfort of your living room? This is one of the reasons I love well-made foreign films. They transport you ever so eloquently to another land and time. Watch these films. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do."
"What can we add about that glorious movie? Wonderful script, powerful message, exceptional landscapes, superb cast. In fact, Depardieu gives one of his finest goals (at the level of Danton, Cyrano, Vatel or Novecento). This film also threw to the sand to Daniel Auteil and Montand might have given the best achievement of his career as the greedy father.
The story is quite simple. Depardieu tries to find a new life in a farm on the hills of a village, whose people don't see him very well due his hauntchback.
The epic spirit he arouses and all the crowd of situations make this story and this film a must reference when you consider the best Eighties French movies.
Watch this film and please, don't forget Manon the second part."