Claude Berri’s Jean de Florette (1986)—adapted by Berri and longtime Roman Polanski collaborator Gérard Brach from Marcel Pagnol’s novel (itself drawn from Pagnol’s 1953 film Manon of the Spring)—is really only half a film, since it is meant to be followed by Berri’s Manon of the Spring. Worry not, however, because the Hendersonville Film Society will be showing Manon next week. Though either film is comprehensible without the other, the impact of the films is greatly enhanced by seeing both. The first film—the slower paced of the two—sets up much of the characterization and tone for the second.
The story is a simple one about a man (Gérard Depardieu) who inherits a piece of land in the country. He wants nothing more than to live there with his wife and child and start a farm. Unfortunately, an unscrupulous neighbor (Yves Montand) wants the property for the spring that’s on it and proceeds to have his nephew (Daniel Auteil) block the spring in an effort to drive the newcomer out and get his land at a low price. It’s a tale of greed and duplicity set very deliberately in some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable in order to heighten the ugliness of the human behavior. A stealthy work that creeps up on the viewer, becoming intriguing without seeming to work at it.