Thursday, August 16, 2012

An old-fashioned French melodrama

The French actor Daniel Auteuil plays a key role in and directs The Well-Digger's Daughter, a movie based on a 1940 film by Marcel Pagnol. Auteuil, you'll remember, made his mark acting in two terrific adaptations of Pagnol's work, Jean de Florette (1984) and Manon of the Spring (1986), both directed by the late Claude Berri. Although Well-Digger's Daughter isn't up to the level of either of those films, it should appeal to those with a taste for high-level melodrama, enhanced, of course, by the scenery of Provence. Auteuil portrays the gruff, well-digging father of a young woman (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) he idolizes for her purity and saintliness. When Berges-Frisbey's Patricia becomes pregnant by the son (Nicolas Duvauchette) of the town's wealthy grocer, Auteuil's character turns his back on her. He banishes her from his home. The movie seems to be set-up for a tragedy fueled by an old man's recalcitrance and his daughter's independence. The strong-willed Patricia refuses to take the easy way out, spurning an offer of marriage from one of her father's co-workers (Kad Merad), a good-hearted fellow who offers to marry her even though she's carrying another man's child. World War I provides more melodramatic upheaval, and the movie moves toward its somewhat pat but still satisfying conclusion.

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