Friday, January 26, 2007
Jacquou le Croquant
A frigid drive into Brive la Gaillarde today to see the film Jacquou le Croquant. It was released in January 17 in France and got a lot of advance showings in this region because the story is part of the folklore of the Dordogne. It was made by the Director, Laurent Boutonnet, who also composed the music, and stars the actor, Gaspard Ulliel as Jacquou.
This film will be released in the US dubbed and there has been a lot of press about Gaspard Ulliel who has made a few hottest actor of 2007 lists in the US Press.
I thought it was a film that could appeal to all ages and could be shown to a young audience with no problem. The art direction, costuming, camera work, design and sets are absolutely stunning. Many little effects which are barely noticed are used to enhance the painterly quality of the scenes. In the opening scene, peasants are cutting wheat and the wheat field glistens and shimmers in the sun which seems to reflect the joyous mood of the people working together. The shimmering was achieved by "glitter powder", an effect not really evident, it just enhances the scene.
As an action tale of poetic justice and love it really succeeds. I found myself emotionally manipulated by the story telling. If I hadn't already known the book by Eugene LeRoy and seen the 8 hour mini series made for French television back in 1969, I would have liked it more.
The movie simplies a very deep story of politics and peasant revolt set in the rural Dordogne in 1815. I have to say that the movie succeeds magnificently in capturing the look of the villages at that time. When the city of Perigueux is first shown, I gasped in amazement because they had recreated the city as it looked then an amazing thing because the Cathedral, St. Front had only one byzantine influenced tower back then and was radically redesigned in the 1880's. St. Front is an amazing building if you ever come to Perigueux, the original church was built before 1000 ad and was incorporated into the present building. In the 1880's it was enlarged for the final time and two more towers were added and all was coated with a frosting of pale colored terra cotta!
The movie changes a few very important details for sake of a happier ending. The political involvement of the Jesuits in the suppression of the peasants is barely touched on, yet is one of author LeRoys main themes. LeRoy wrote the book in 1885 and he uses a lot of Patois, the pre french language that is sort of corrupted latin which the peasants here still speak. I don't believe the book has been translated into English, but if it has, it's a wonderful read!
Though the movie really strives to show the misery of the times, the dehumanization of the peasants and the cruelty of the rich and also the tenderness of the relationships between the characters...it's neccessarily simplistic treatment of these things were lacking because I loved the story so much.
Jacquou was a fictional figure, yet to most of the people I know who live in the towns of Rouffignac, Thenon, Montignac and Fanlac, he was a real person and they will show you the actual sites of the action in the book. I have been to the abandond Chateau d'Hermes where the evil count of Nansac supposedly lived and had Jacquou thrown down the oubliette. Later the peasants revolt and burn the chateau which to the people here is the reason it is ruined and abandoned today. Many of the locations are local villages and we spent the movie identifying sites and ttrying to spot friends who got extra parts in the film! Bravo a Simon Clerjoux! (mon ancien voisin d'Ajat)
In spite of my reservations, I was very glad to have seen it and with out hesitation recommend it to anyone who enjoys a historical romance with lots of great action!
Some of the characters are wonderfully cast and played! If you see it advrtised, check it out and if you ever see the book, Jacquou le Croquant, read it!