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The Well-Digger's Daughter is a french movie, remake of another famous
french film of the 40's.
If you don't know anything about french cinema, know that this remake features well known comedians such as Daniel Auteuil (it's also his first work as a director), Kad Merad, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Sabine Azema, and Marie-Anne Chazel.
The original film was directed, written and produced by Marcel Pagnol, famous not only for his films but also for plays and novels that have become classics.
The remake definitely honors the classic, and I can't find one single thing to criticize. The actors all deliver moving and natural compositions, from the loving and torn father (Auteuil) to the moody Mrs Mazel (Azema), from the benevolent Felipe (Merad) to the seductive Jacques (Duvauchelle). By the way, it certainly isn't hard to see why the heroine falls for him after just one encounter ;) The main character, Patricia, is played with tact and sweetness by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, who somehow reminds me of Jane March. She was unknown before this role (even if it's not her first), but no doubt this is the year of her breakthrough, as she will soon be seen interpreting a mermaid in the next Pirates of the Caribbean.
The direction is precise, careful, and manages to capture each small emotion of the characters. It really serves well the beautiful and moving plot. You're completely immersed into the story and can have your eyes wet more than once, even though the movie isn't a melodrama nor a tragedy. This story is timeless, and universal. I would recommend it to absolutely everyone. It's a 5-star film!
A wonderful cast facilitate Daniel Auteuil's vision of wartime France
in this gentle, love-filled drama/comedy about a working man's attempt
to maintain the honour of his family after his eldest of six daughters
Pascal has always wanted a son, but finds himself a hard-working widowed father of six daughters instead. When the son of local bourgeoisie, the Mazels, seduces his daughter before being packed off to war, Pascal and his daughter are ill-treated by the frosty Mazels. Pascal learns not to trust people "who sell tools, but never use them." But he is also honorable, exiling his disgraced daughter Patricia, who herself refuses compromise by rejecting the repeated proposals of her father's co-worker Félipe, an honest, industrious, but prosaic individual. Pascal has honour, but Félipe has love. The war intervenes in events, not once but several times, becoming a catalyst that brings to resolution the feud between the two families from opposite classes.
Auteuil handles the comedy effortlessly, but also shows depth and steel when darker tones are needed, such as handling the humiliations dished out carelessly by the shallow, emotionally volatile Mrs. Mazel. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey is simply superb as the much-wronged Patricia. Her expression when waiting by the church for a lover she believes has spurned her is exquisitely pained.
The direction keeps most of the action outdoors or in daytime, allowing Provence to glimmer and shine. There are small moments of poetry here; Pascal turn-taking a kiss with his youngest daughter as they wait for guests;interactions with a baby who melts everyone's heart, cast and audience alike; the strong bond of friendship between Pascal and Félipe.
This is a well-crafted tale of love, family, work and honour that never gets too sentimental and earns the many tears and smiles it evokes. An uplifting, joyful film, and we all need one of those from time to time.
This marvelous film is based on a Pagnol novel which I had never heard of. Maybe it's well-known in France and so the title is familiar to audiences there. But in the US "The Well Digger's Daughter" should keep people away from this film in droves. In fact, the film is an old fashioned fable set in the French countryside during the period of World War I. Even though the plot turns are seen coming a mile away, the film has such charm and simple feeling and wisdom, that there is enormous pleasure in watching the story unfold. Auteuil is perfect as the father, as is every other actor, especially Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as the daughter of the title and Nicolas Duvauchelle as her 'prince'. And the music by Andre Desplat is one of his best scores. The setting and the lives of the characters are so beautifully depicted, there is so much pleasure to be had in entering their world for two hours, that it seems a shame that American audiences will have to overcome their disinclination to see a movie about a well-digger and his daughter when there is this rich and deeply emotional story waiting for them in the cinema.
Remaking a Pagnol film is asking for trouble. Film snobs will dismiss
the remake without giving it a chance, though 60 years ago those same
film snobs probably dismissed Pagnol as a film director, finding him
hopelessly inferior to Renoir or ... Afficionados of Raimu, an
unquestionably great actor - when he had a good role - will say that no
one can do what he did. And they would be right; no one can out-Raimu
Raimu. A force of nature, because Raimu at his best was a force of
nature, cannot be imitated or equaled. But a role can be done a
different way, even if the words are the same, just as different great
actors can succeed at Hamlet or King Lear. And yes, I speak of
Shakespeare. Theater/literature snobs can guffaw, but who cares? Let
them go about their business.
And I will go about mine, which is to talk about this movie, which is remarkably moving. Moving in part because Pagnol's script was a masterpiece, yes, but also because this is a very well-done realization of it.
The first thing that struck me about this movie was the color, when you see the scenery. Pagnol, for whatever reason, really didn't do a lot with scenery in his black and white movies. This movie shows what that deprived us of. It is done in the best tradition of the color versions of Jean de Florette, Manon des sources, La gloire de mon père, and Le château de ma mère. The countryside around Salon de Provence comes alive, and is beautiful.
I was also struck by the use of music, which again is not a high point in Pagnol's version. The Italian song, so wonderfully recorded by Caruso, is used in very moving ways here. Auteuil has a better sense of how to use music in a film than Pagnol did, at least with this script.
But the heart of this movie is Pagnol's text, and this cast, a great one, does it beautifully. True, at times, as I marveled at the genius of Pagnol's text, I wondered if that meant these actors were acting it, rather than becoming the characters. That may be true in some cases, though not for Kad Merad, who becomes Philippet every bit as much as Fernandel did. I can hear Raimu reciting the lines Daniel Auteuil speaks, and beautifully, perhaps because they are so different, certainly because Raimu delivered them in a way that engraved them in my memory. But Auteuil makes them very moving as well. He is not a force of nature as Raimu was, but his Pascal is also a real character.
What I realized, over and over again watching this movie, is that the script was indeed written by a playwright, and Auteuil respects that. We still have fully-developed scenes, as movies used to have when they were still imitating theater. And, as a result, with this great script and these great actors, we have deeply moving moments, such as when Pascal says goodbye to his daughter, sending her off to raise her bastard child elsewhere. Or, even more deeply moving, when the parents of the father of her child, having just lost their son in the war, come to see the child, the last remnant of their now lost son. Every line of that scene is deeply moving: Pascal's pride in his grandson, the parents' grief and longing for their son. (I didn't care for the mother's final admission that she burned her son's letter rather than deliver it to Patricia; that was better done in the previous version.)
A film script is like a play: it can be done in more than one way, if it's worth doing - as this script most certainly is. It will not wipe away memories of Pagnol's 1940s version, nor should it. You don't have to forget Olivier's Hamlet to love Jacobi's, or Branaugh's, or ... I suspect the very film snobs who dismiss Pagnol's own work will cause this film not to enjoy the success it deserves, but that would be a real crime. This is, in fact, a wonderful realization of Pagnol's very beautiful, very wonderful script.
I watched this movie again this evening, and really have nothing to add to what I wrote before, other than to say that it is a beautiful realization of Pagnol's script. Auteuil, Merad, and Darroussin are three of modern French film's finest actors, and they all give first-rate performances here. The often wonderful dialogue is delivered as in a great movie or play, lovingly and beautifully. Watch this. It's a deeply moving and wonderful movie.
Daniel Auteuil is one of my favorite actors... in the world.
I rented this film earlier tonight from Video Futur, a French movie rental chain, after missing it at the cinéma. My girlfriend and I just finished watching it. Wow.
It's fantastic !!! Of course, you should start with the Marcel Pagnol classics like Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Read the books, watch the films, fall in love with the south of France. If you're already familiar with the works of Pagnol, you can jump right in and enjoy. Heck, even if you're not familiar with them, watch this film anyway.
In my opinion, Provence is the most beautiful place in France, and possibly the world. Pagnol used real locations in Provence, including Aubagne, Salon, and other locales as the settings for his best dramas.
This is no exception. La fille du puisatier (English: The welldigger's daughter) is a well-crafted story that I believe Americans, and cinema fans all over the world, will enjoy. The film is an excellent and faithful adaptation of Pagnol's original story, and the actors' performances elevate this film to the highest level.
Auteuil, along with co-stars Kad Merad and Jean-Pierre Darroussin knock this thing out of the park. I remember Merad and Darroussin from other films, including L'immortel (English: 22 bullets), but this takes the cake.
This is not to take away from the amazing performances of the daughter in the title, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as Patricia Amoretti, as well as the solid performance of Emilie Cazenave as her sister Amanda.
All in all, great acting, great writing (based on an already-good story) and beautiful cinematography, made for a completely enjoyable viewing experience, at least for us.
I hope this comes out soon in the US so that American audiences can see for themselves.
I remember seeing Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources (English: Manon of the spring) in my high school French class. My teacher was nice enough to share some French movies with us. Decades later, I'm lucky enough to be living in France, putting all those French lessons to good use, enjoying Pagnol again, and dreaming, everyday, about moving back to the south.....to Provence.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We were lucky enough to view this marvelous French film yesterday in
Fremantle and both of us were touched by the simple story of boy meets
girl; girl has his child but things turnout well in the end. The
conflicting problems are the unspoken classism of France in those early
WW I years that more obviously exist in England but are relatively
unknown in France. Some negative commentators spoke from a Feminist
perspective about the girl being only a cardboard figure without
substance but from our point of view those considerations were
unimportant given the beauty of the cinematography and the relative
newness of the unfolding story (that is, how the various people played
their roles at that time in French history.) We were not prepared to
rubbish the film because of modern concerns; the actions of the
characters all made sense to us and we considered them to be one
example from a plethora of similar timeless actions. Perhaps the only
fault that could be drawn was that the ending seemed rather more pat
than reality would have allowed in those days.
The actors played their roles beautifully and the nuances of the script were delightful in their unfolding. There were many insights (to me as a foreigner) into life at that time in France and as a result I am not prepared to make any negative comments about the story nor the script. We thought it was a beautiful film and well-worth the time and expense to see it.
Another reviewer has rightly pointed out that the title of this film in English is going to keep audiences away from the English-speaking cinemas in droves. But the original French title of which it is a translation, LA FILLE DU PUISATIER, had to be retained in France. That is because it is a remake of a famous and classic film of 1940 directed by Marcel Pagnol from his own novel, and thus it needed to have the same title, so that French people would know what it was. The screenplay adaptation of the remake is by Daniel Auteuil, who also directed the film and starred in it (playing the part of the well-digger). Auteuil, one of France's most famous actors, has a long history of association with Marcel Pagnol's tales of early 20th century Provence. Those who like French movies will certainly remember the pair of immensely popular films based on Pagnol novels which were directed by Claude Berri and starred Daniel Auteuil, JEAN DE FLORETTE and MANON DES SOURCES (both 1986). At the moment three further Pagnol remakes are being filmed, with Auteuil in the leading role of César, of Pagnol's famous trilogy of films, known as 'The Marseilles Trilogy'. The individual tiles of the trilogy are CÉSAR, FANNY, and MARIUS. Let us hope that a full-fledged Pagnol revival gets going, as the old films as well as the new are a pure delight. Credit for keeping the flame alive must go to Pagnol's remarkable daughter, whom I visited long ago in her office on the far side of the Periphérique. She is a powerful and determined personality and she kept the old Pagnol films in distribution and arranged for all the new ones to be made, and is a fierce guardian of the integrity and continuity of the family's creative flame. The Pagnol films are about 'real people' in the South of France, where Pagnol came from, and the thick accents in the Marseilles Trilogy are a marvel to the ear, and as different from Parisian French as a Mississippi drawl is from the speech of an inhabitant of Brooklyn, or as an impenetrable Glasgow accent is from the way they speak in London. This film is a pure delight, beautifully directed by Auteuil, and featuring as his eldest daughter (the one of the title) a fresh young actress of the utmost charm named Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, aged 25, who is part Spanish and as beautiful as a rose petal sparking with Provencal dew in the morning. The story allows her to have been sent away and educated in Paris, to explain why she does not speak like the locals. She is absolutely perfect casting, has all the right qualities for the part, and does a wonderful job. Auteuil is, as usual, superb. The rest of the cast are also excellent. This is a very poignant and emotional tale, as Pagnol stories usually are, and I would rate it as an instant classic. Everyone should see it, though outside of France, I wonder how many really will. It would be a shame for anyone who enjoys and looks forward to a superb French film to miss it, as this is in the top rank.
The Well Digger's Daughter (2011)
A drama set in the early 20th Century that ends up being about traditions and love and how two different kinds of families come to understand each other. While not a Romeo and Juliet story at all, it has that basic problem when two young people from different social realms fall in love.
What keeps this from becoming commonplace is the beauty of it all, including what I would call beautiful acting--heartfelt, nuanced, interesting. In a way it is the well digger, the dad played by Daniel Autueil who is the main character. He's a familiar face (if not name) to those who have seen a few French films, and he's wonderful. Though a practical man (he digs wells the old fashioned way for a living), he has a sense of dignity and honor that impresses even the rich family whose charming son has seduced the title character.
We feel no violation here, just the normal confused crossed-star love issues. War intrudes, and then the dreaded report from the front, and the families still have to cope together. For reasons you'll see.
Marcel Pagnol, the great mid-Century French writer whose story is the basis for this, was also a filmmaker, and you can feel a kind of homage or influence at play here, which adds yet another layer of appreciation.
It's also a really funny movie, one of the dramas that is so witty and warm you laugh along with the characters like you would your friends (assuming you have funny friends). I loved the whole experience. If it ends with a feeling like, okay, all is resolved one way or another, I guess that's fine. There is no epiphany here, but rather a sweet slice of life from a provincial time we'd love to never forget.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Writer-director Marcel Pagnol set the bar pretty high in terms of film-making, not least when he made La Fille du puisatier in 1940 with some heavy hitters in the shape of Raimu, Fernandel and Charpin as respectively the eponymous well-digger, his friend and colleague Felipe, and Monsiour Mazel, the father of Jacques, who leaves the eponymous daughter pregnant and goes to war. Luckily Danile Auteuil is lion-hearted and makes a great fist of his affectionate remake plying the Raimu role himself with Kad Merad as the friend and Jean-Pierre Darrousin as Monsiour Mazel plus, for good measure, Sabine Azema as Madame Mazel. This is a film with charm to spare and wonderful shots of Province that tell us immediately why so many English people move there whilst inspiring others to follow suit. It's a film for all the family which chooses to avoid weightier issues - for example 'honor' marriages which, in the present day lead often to Asian girls choosing death or having death chosen for them by parents obsessed with honor - and concentrate on wholesome entertainment. Highly recommended.
Marcel Pagnol was a wonderful French writer, director and playwright.
His stories are indeed classics and have been filmed, re-filmed and
even re-filmed again. So, it's not at all surprising that Daniel
Auteuil has decided to take a stab at Pagnol's classic stories--not
just starring in them but writing the new screenplays and directing
them. I say that's not surprising because not only are these wonderful
stories, but Auteuil also has previously been in a couple other Pagnol
stories--"Jean de Florette" and "Manon Des Sources". His four new films
consist of this film, "The Well-Digger's Daughter" as well as the
wonderful trilogy consisting of "Marius", "Fanny" and "Cesar"--which
just recently debuted and which are not yet available here in the
States. I cannot wait to see these three most recent movies.
"The Well-Digger's Daughter" is a story with many similarities to the Fanny Trilogy Auteuil made following this film. All are set in Provence, concern ordinary folks and are about the complications that arise from an unplanned pregnancy.
The story begins with the daughter, Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) meeting a handsome young man, Jacques (Nicolas Duvauchelle) when she's on her way to bring her father, Pascal (Daniel Auteuil), his lunch. The audience KNOWS based on their meeting that the two are destined to be a number. However, there are some complications---such as Felipe (Kad Merad) wanting to marry Patricia. But, of course, much more serious complications arise--and I don't really want to get to them here--just see the film.
I love films about ordinary people--and Pagnol's are about as ordinary as you can find! Some may not be quite so captivated by these folks-- they aren't exactly rich, cultured or the Hollywood types. But, I am pretty ordinary as are 99% of movie viewers! So why not enjoy the lives and loves of folks we can relate to?! Plus, the story is so nicely written, lovingly directed and enjoyable that I strongly recommend you give it a try.
By the way, Pascal's grandson, who he treats as if it's HIS kid is actually Zachary Auteuil--the actor/director's real life son!
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