Small French Movie a Return to Classics
THE WELL DIGGER’S DAUGHTER (La Fille de Puisatier) (2011/IN THEATERS) If you’re looking for a complete change of pace from all the action flix of this past summer, look no further than this beautiful and classic French tale of life in Provence around the time of WWI. Adapting the story from a novel by Marcel Pagnol, familiar French actor Daniel Auteuil not only penned the screenplay but also directed and stars as the main character Pascal Amoretti. Pascal is the well digger in question, a hard working but poor man who has been blessed with no less than six daughters. His wife is dead and Pascal now counts on his eldest, Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), to help him with the others. He regards Patricia, who has been educated in Paris, as something of a saint, returned to him just when he needed her most. Pascal’s helper in the well-digging business—the earnest and amiable Felipe (Kad Merad)–is also enamored of Patricia and hopes to propose to her as the film opens. Unfortunately for Felipe, just at the same time Patricia has also caught the eye of a young pilot, Jacques Mazel (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who is the son of the wealthy town merchant. Jacques is quite the flirt and Patricia falls for his spell, becoming pregnant and setting into motion the film’s main storyline involving paternity and the wealthy vs. the working class. Does this sound familiar? Between the gorgeous scenery and the central questions of lineage, I felt sure we were heading straight back into the territory of two other Pagnol stories, also set in Provence, which were made into striking films back in 1986–Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring. If you missed these two, or just need a refresher, I highly recommend renting both. Yves Montand stars as the wealthy landowner in the two pictures, with Gerard Depardieu as the young hunchback in the first film and beautiful Emmanuelle Béart as his daughter in the second. Daniel Auteuil appears in both movies as the son of Montand, ultimately dying of heartbreak in the latter. The two films play like grand Opera and they are magnificent. But wait! Don’t run away! This one chooses to take a lighter path, one you won’t want to miss. Enjoy.