Daily Archives: 06/28/2003

Cheap Movie Mayhem

Looking at cars and trucks wore me out this afternoon. I fled into the cool recesses of the Hafa Adai theater and enjoyed a $1.50 matinee of The Italian Job. A pleasing little movie with the very easy on the eyes Charlize Theron. I generally enjoy heist movies, and this was no exception.

Last night I polished off two Netflix DVD’s that have been lying about for over a month, Jean de Florette & Manon des Sources. What a pair of movies. I cannot praise them enough. Jean de Florette is a more powerful film, as Gerard Depardieu is slowly and inexorably ground down to ruin by Yves Montand and Daniel Auteuil. Depardieu inherits a small farm that the two men covet, and they go to great lengths to drive him off the land; blocking the small spring on the farm, casting aspersions about him in the village, and refusing to lend him vital aid when he needs it most. All the while, they play themselves off as Depardieu’s only friends, every ready to supply him with a bottle of wine. At the beginning of the film Montand says that is is much easier to push a man downhill to ruin than to push against him. The conniving duo lead Deardieu down such a hill. The final scene is soul-numbing. Montand and Auteuil gleefully unplug the priceless spring after buying the farm on the cheap from Depardieu’s widow. Depardieu’s young daughter follows them into the trees and discovers they were the source of her father’s downfall and howls an unworldly shriek of anguish. So chilling a depiction of duplicity, methodical cruelty and greed is rarely put onto film. Evil wins this round, but that little girl will have her vengeance.

The second film, Manon des Sources, picks up the story ten years later. That little girl has grown into a beautiful young woman, Emmanuelle Beart(hubba hubba). She wanders the hills, a lonely shepardess, shunning the villagers that stood idle while her family was destroyed. When she accidentally discovers the source of water for both the village and her nemeses Auteuil and Montand, she wreaks a powerful vengeance upon the entire community and sets in motion a chain of events that bring about the downfall of her enemies. This movie is quite good but not as gripping as the first film. It moves along briskly, coming to a shattering conclusion that leaves all evil doers punished. Beart is ridiculously beautiful, and Montand actually seems to collapse in on himself as his ruin draws closer. The tale of evil deeds and rightful vengeance plays out like Greek tragedy.

I first stumbled onto these movies 12 years ago. Flipping through the channels, I came upon Jean de Florette being aired on my local PBS station. I was riveted to the television, mesmerized by the film. I’ve looked for it in vain since then, scouring video stores and retailers. I really enjoy NetFlix, for exactly this reason. 17 year old films in French are not exactly leaping off the shelves at my local video store. NetFlix gives me a chance to watch some quality films that are not stocked on Guam. I just wish the turnaround on the DVD’s was quicker, but that’s a problem for the US Post, not NetFlix.