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  • Writer's pictureEugene

Jean de Florette (1986)

Updated: Sep 18, 2023


Gordon, our discussion lead, gave us a Zoom screen background that scrolled through a variety of very beautiful French scenes. The lure of the French countryside and the desire to make a living from it is what drives the main character, Jean de Florette in this film. We were near a dozen participants eager to discuss both the main feature Jean de Florette, and also the short film The Grape Pickers by our very own film maker Jeanne Pope. “How are you?” “All the better for seeing a very good film”. “I just don't know how people can be so nasty”, and we all agreed with this immediate reaction to the feature film’s conclusion. Made in 1986, RCC showed this film in 2018. “A different time, how things have changed since”. Again, we all agreed. Jeanne’s short, The Grape Pickers, is located in her Tuchan, a part of France we learn as Vichy c. 1940’s evidenced with the relic of a coin from that time found in the fields there which Jeanne shared with us. Grape Pickers is a shorter version of a longer piece our gathered group would like to see at RCC sometime. Jeanne explained that she was a little bit emotional because right now they're doing the grape picking. I missed that life and it's, and I think it fits really well with Jean de Florette. The documentary was made on her own, without the help of a crew, during COVID, 2020. Visiting her old village she was caught by the travel bans and the character of her beloved Tuchan, it’s gossipy inhabitants and its astonishing beauty, echo Jean de Florette. A perfect pairing. “But you know, so there's a, it's a little village. So you have to be really careful. It's the jealousies. The men drinking. And as a woman, I've never been in the bar on my own. Never. Never. Because you just don't do it. And I had to sign a form. Yes. On my honour. On your honour. Yes. I had not been with anybody that had some COVID and I haven't had any symptoms in the last few days”, said Jeanne. Olwen adds “So I do remember it being particularly nostalgic. It’s easy going, but it's physically a very hard existence, these agricultural areas.” Jeanne noted that everyone from that area has that innate understanding of what it is to be an immigrant and to have lost something. Defending and owning the water source was explored in historical and experiential context: “When the Cathars went to their water source, he had somebody firing arrows at them so they couldn't get to the water.So it's been going on for…”(between the 12th and 14th century. “So the water comes from the mountain and we all have turns to water, our garden. God forbid you overstep your mark and you water without authority.I’ve (Jeanne) been yelled at so many times” “The whole culture has a lot to do with Catholicism and that “rules based” society, especially the women presenting themselves in that sort of way. “Yeah”, from the group agreeing with Olwen. “And the men gathering together…and that's why it's a culture of the land.” “Yeah.” “Yeah.” “I visited Barcelona” (and saw this world). “I lived in Crete” (and saw this world). “My Mother grew up on a farm in the US” (and saw this world). In these same small communities “everyone knows you, you're given nicknames, the “Lovola”, “the drunk”, “cold” and “big mouth” all the gossip and its end result. The “newcomer” was discussed. “Is there, was there maybe just something about the sort of collective conspiracy against the newcomer, the outsider?” We recalled the ball that got thrown into the mud, splattered, the dresses, the young girl and the mother, a metaphor for the alienation of “The Other”. “First of all, he was from the city. Secondly, he was a tax collector in the city. And thirdly, sadly, he was a hunchback. The villagers were a ‘schlach’”. “What I'd like to know is, do those two villainous characters get their comeuppance in the sequel?” Gordon fills us in: Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, the second part to Jean de Florette, is really a prequel to the main book, written by Pagnol. And they were both films were filmed concurrently, over 30 weeks, which is a massively long time to make a film. It allowed Claude Berri the director to to show the Provence landscape in all of its seasons. It had a budget of $17 million back in 1986. And it was the most expensive French film made up to that point. And it was the biggest hit at the French box office that year. “I think the French do tragedy and just desserts really well. And that music really well. I think French write really good sad songs.” The improved surround-sound speakers in the hall since the first time RCC screened Jean de Florette might be why we commented on the sound of crickets, birds and indeed, the tragic sound of Giuseppi Vedi. submitted by KG

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