Jean de Florette (1986)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Rural Drama, Period Film  |   Release Date - Jun 26, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 122 min.  |   Countries - Switzerland, France, Italy  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Dan Jardine

The plot of Jean de Florette is as melodramatic as any soap opera, but its treatment is just a little askew, just off-center enough for the film to evolve into a moving and powerful pastoral tragedy. The film is a naturalistic story about the dehumanizing effect of greed on a community and on the human soul. Watching the hunchbacked Jean de Florette (Gérard Depardieu) struggle against all odds to keep his small farm alive, maintaining to the bitter end his optimism and naïve faith in his reference books, is like watching Sisyphus make his daily toil up the hill. Only here, it is not the gods who have trapped the victim, but the xenophobia and covetousness of his neighbors. Director Claude Berri shoots the countryside in grand scope, dwarfing the human figures whose daily exertions hardly make a mark on it. As the story moves inexorably to its tragic conclusion, the wicked plotting of the simultaneously likable and vicious father (Yves Montand) and son (Daniel Auteuil) leaves the audience pleading for divine retribution. However, humans created this cruel world in Provence, and they will have to mete out their own justice. The sequel, Manon of the Spring, realizes this desire for revenge with perfectly poetic magnitude. Nominated for nine British Academy Awards (BAFTA) in 1988, Jean de Florette took home three awards.