La fille du puisatier (The Well Digger’s Daughter)

Poster for La fille du puisatier (The Well Digger’s Daughter)

Winter 2013 Features series

Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Daniel Auteuil

Screenplay by Daniel Auteuil

Based on the book by Marcel Pagnol

Starring Nicolas Duvauchelle, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, and Daniel Auteuil

Rated PG · 1h 47m

View trailer

La fille du puisatier (The Well Digger’s Daughter)
This is an exquisitely crafted, sun-drenched melodrama set in the south of France, before the First World War. We meet a hard-working well-digger named Pascal Amoretti (Daniel Auteuil, Caché), whose wife dies, leaving him with six daughters. A rich Parisian woman becomes impressed by the second oldest, Patricia (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), and pays for her to come to Paris and attend a convent school. At 18, with a cultured Parisian accent and stylish clothes, she returns home to help her father raise her sisters.

Pascal would like her to marry his longtime employee, Félipe (Kad Merad), who is happy enough to go along with the plan. Félipe gets a tiny new car and takes Patricia to town, where she meets Jacques Mazel (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the dashing son of a local rich man. It is love at first sight, but given the times and the mores, a romance between them would violate class barriers. Still, after Patricia sees Jacques flying his biplane in a little air show, she speaks to him, and he spirits her away on his motorcycle. They both are clearly smitten.

Patricia is a good girl, but like some good girls, she becomes pregnant, just as Jacques is called up, literally overnight, by the French air force and sent to fly in Africa. Through one of those misunderstandings that are crucial to melodrama, Patricia believes he has left without saying goodbye. When good, simple Félipe offers his hand in marriage, she confesses her condition to him. Her father is left to contend with the consequences.

The Well Digger’s Daughter is based on the classic work by French novelist, playwright and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol who directed his own adaptation in 1940 (with actors Raimu and Fernandel). This new version is a chance for first-time director Daniel Auteuil to revisit the world that elevated him to international prominence when he starred in Claude Berri’s adaptations of two of Pagnol’s other novels,Jean de Florette and Manon des sources, a quarter of a century ago. The film is set to a score by Academy Award-nominee Alexandre Desplat (The King’s Speech) and captures all the warmth and humanist spirit of Pagnol’s original work.

“To call The Well Digger’s Daughter an old-fashioned film is to pay it a compliment. Here is a love story embedded in traditional values. All the characters yearn for the same outcome but are blocked by their notions of respectability. No character is bad, although great suspense is generated by the closeness of their approach to heartlessness. What Auteuil does here, with precise casting, is to depend on the traditional strength of all love stories to make us hope the lovers will overcome the obstacles separating them.” (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

“Best of all Daughter marks a return to old-school French moviemaking, the kind of classically well-made endeavor that unrolls before us like a beloved tapestry. This is the kind of film they don’t make anymore, only here it is. We owe all of this to Auteuil. As someone who grew up in Provence, Auteuil has a feeling for both the nourishing beauty of the countryside and the peculiarities of the people who lived there, especially in the warm but frank way they were depicted by Pagnol. Although the situations and the characters in ‘Daughter’ sound standard, nothing was stock in Pagnol’s hands. He saw people, especially the well-digger Pascal played by Auteuil, in all their baffling and endearing complexity. The poetry of language and emotion we can encounter are often unexpected and always welcome.” (Kenneth Turan,Los Angeles Times)