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The best-known Pagnol films tend to run long. He was writer, director, and I gather editor for the films his company produced, so as editor he went easy on himself. That always produces a leisurely, if appropriate pace in his movies.
The same is true here with Jefroi. It is just that the story he has to tell is a short one, so the movie runs less than an hour. And, as with most Pagnol films, the plot is simplicity itself: Jefroi sells his orchard to Alphonse. Alphonse wants to use the land for crops, so he starts to cut down the trees. Jefroi is furious: how can someone cut down those trees? He threatens to commit suicide so that the small town will blame Alphonse and Alphonse's life will be miserable. Alphonse, the curate, the teacher, and some of the townsfolk spend the rest of the movie trying to keep Jefroi from committing suicide.
This is not complicated - though the ending is a clever and unforeseen twist. Still, the movie is not about the plot; it is all about the characters and the dialogue. Like many of Pagnol's films, most of this one is shot outside "on location" in a small town in Provence. (Don't think Peter Mayle; this is great stuff.) It all looks and sounds and feels so real that you forget you are watching a movie - which, of course, was Pagnol's intent. Yet it is completely unlike what is now called "reality TV." These people are INTERESTING! Quirky, yes, and sometimes very funny, but always very human, without being "feel good" sentimental.
I don't know what it would be like to watch this relying on subtitles. Much of the humor is in the colloquial way the characters speak. But if you can follow it in French, treat yourself. They don't make movies like this anymore, as they say - and in this case, that's a real shame.
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