Starring: Gérard Depardieu, Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil
Director: Claude Berri
Running Time: 120 mins
Jean de Florette is a French film about an elderly farm owner and his nephew who work together to bankrupt the newly-arrived owner of a nearby farm and force him to sell the property to them.
This sort of drama isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but it’s still a hugely interesting and emotional watch. Jean de Florette benefits from three fantastic central performances combined with beautiful cinematography and scoring, and although it’s not a drama that goes all out for emotional impact for the majority of its runtime, when the film does introduce a little more melodrama, it works fantastically.
First off, the best thing about this film is definitely the performances. Like I said, this film is a certain genre of realistic drama that’s not my personal preference, but for every time that I felt a little bored with the way the story was going, the three lead actors managed to reinvigorate my interest through their great performances.
Above all, Gérard Depardieu gives the best performance, simply because he managed to get me to really sympathise with his character, a man trying to make the best of a difficult situation, both due to his unfamiliarity with the agricultural lifestyle, as well as the stigma from the locals, which was so important as his optimism begins to wane as the film goes on.
Alongside Depardieu, Yves Montand is great as the greedy landowner who wants to force Depardieu into bankruptcy, whilst Daniel Auteuil does a fantastic job at playing the in-between role, working with Montand to frustrate Depardieu, but still feeling the same guilt as you for pushing the man into despair.
Beyond the performances, Jean de Florette is an artistically wonderful film. The stunning panoramas of the valleys of Provence are beautiful, whilst the score captures the rustic charm of the countryside as well as some of the more melancholy elements of the story, making the film a far more engrossing experience than its somewhat slow story would have you believe at first.
And that’s where my only major issue with the film comes in. As I said earlier, when the film is really going for emotional impact, it does a fantastic job, but for the first two-thirds, there’s nothing particularly striking or captivating about the story that had me fully engrossed. The visuals are fantastic, and the performances do a lot to make the film all the more interesting, but as a truly dramatic exercise, it’s not so incredible for a large part of the film, and that’s why Jean de Florette gets a 7.5 from me.