Very French, very melancholy, Jean de Florette tells the first half of the classic tale of the hunchback Jean (Depardieu), a city-dwelling tax collector who inherits a small farm in rural France. Unhappy that their attempt to buy the place failed (after killing the former owner, even!), Cesar and Ugolin (Montand and Auteuil) scheme to drive Jean away, primarily through plugging up the natural spring on the land, leaving it dry as Oklahoma. But when the poor Ugolin and Jean become friends, the deception turns out to be bittersweet.
Extremely well-made, Jean de Florette is director Claude Berri's finest work, a touching tale that is simple and succinct while not devolving into a confusing and minimalist mess. Depardieu and Auteuil are at their height as actors, and Berri's widescreen panoramas of the beautiful -- yet unforgiving -- French countryside are unforgettable.
Highly recommended, even for subtitle-haters.
Part two of this epic is Manon of the Spring.