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Friday, February 21, 2014

THE WELL-DIGGER'S DAUGHTER THE MOVIE

air bellows waterfall in summer
 
It's a wet, overcast day, sometimes rain, sometimes not-rain. Windchimes ting, rhododendron leaves wiggle, squirrels scratch for sunflower seeds on the ground near the birdfeeders. Both birdfeeders have squirrel guards, but the squirrels are able to climb around them. The guards prevent only chipmunks, ground-squirrels in the old way of talking. So many chipmunks in extended families, they'd keep the feeders empty all the time without the guards. I welcome anybody at the food kitchen for my feral neighbors. Whoever is hungry is welcome. Early in the morning, four gray squirrels from the woods across the road dart about, scouring the remains of the day before. Four red squirrels, pine squirrels, live in a white pine near the house and cavort in the playground outside my windows. I enjoy watching the squirrels as much as the birds. I throw as much seeds on the ground as in the feeders daily. The squirrels take turns inside the feeders pigging out. They leave plenty for the birds. In the night a raccoon checks out the feeders for leftovers. Sometimes a little is left, most often none. I can tell when a coon has been through in the night by the birdfeeder roofs on the ground. I tried putting hooks on them, but the coon would unfasten them with its fingers. I don't hook them anymore. Coon is welcome too. Instead of attempting to run off the fluffy-tailed squirrels that are even more fun to watch than birds, I put out enough for them too, and the chipmunks. Rather than chase them away for eating the seeds put out for the birds, and cussing their thieving natures, I say, Welcome. I see a squirrel putting seeds in one of several middens among the pine needles on the ground, glad to note I'm giving them enough they have some to store for less abundant times. I'm paying them better than minimum wage for keeping my windows entertaining.
 
 
 
Last night's movie was French, another story by French writer Marcel Pagnol, starring Daniel Auteuil, who also directed it. It had the cinematic beauty of a Merchant & Ivory film, French countryside in the southern mountains, evidently near the Italian border. I'm guessing that because the architecture of the rock houses with tile roof looks Italian, and the lead character's last name is Italian. I google mapped it. The place was closer to Marseilles than to Italy. It was a long ways from Italy. In Holland you find family names that are Spanish. Europeans have moved around throughout time, and borders have changed over time. Pagnol's stories seem awfully Tolstoyan to me. He uses common people to tell big stories. The story of the well-digger's daughter I imagine a somewhat cutting edge story in popular fiction, the old world, before electricity, the story of a girl pregnant out of wedlock, has baby and shames two families. It's ALL her fault. The situation amounted to something on the borderline of date rape, but she was poor and he was rich, rendering her without a voice. I was anticipating another tragedy, but this story was a happily ever after story that came together in the end with everybody at peace with one another. The story verged on tragedy, but took a turn to comedy. Pagnol's other story, Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring, verges on comedy throughout and at the end takes a turn to tragedy. Both stories thwarted expectation. It seems like Pagnol's story-telling takes possible turns in the story as they arise and goes down the path of the unexpected. It's like he builds a little bit of expectation, then changes to another direction. As in life, our path is made by decisions and changing circumstances. Again, as in life, we can't really anticipate anything. We might be able to anticipate by principle, but the details will be different in every case of the same principle.
 
nicolas duvauchele, astrid frisbey
 
I like that Marcel Pagnol recognizes our paths are continually changing, that they interweave with other people's changing paths composing the great ever-changing tapestry of life on earth, woven together by billions of threads that lock into place and compose the past, write history. The cutting edge of the weaving is the living moment. Once every thread is locked into place, history begins, a record of what happened along the cutting edge in its moment. Down through time, the record of events past tells a story. Cycles repeat in the story. Some people read the cycles, learn from the stories and make intelligent decisions in their present moment. Some people don't see any of it, believe the people that see the cycles are loose in the head seeing things. While the people that understand the cycles lament the ones beating their heads against a block wall unable to read the cycles. It is understood in the East that everybody eventually gets it. We are a mix of all levels of innate understanding and learned understanding, stirred in together like fruit cocktail in Jell-O. All the scriptures that have ever been say getting along with our neighbors is where you find inner peace. It's not that inner peace is something we get when we die, but it's what we get when we function with compassion in our attitudes toward life. Without meaning to, I've stumbled upon Pagnol's vision. In the story of the well-digger's daughter, the early part of the story is characterized by people judging one another and themselves without compassion. The way he ties up the loose ends, compassion is the key. People who had hated each other before, fall into love and forgiveness. They come into compassion by way of understanding. In the tragedy, the man had disabled his own compassion; it came back in an overwhelming wave and swept him out of his body.    
 
daniel auteuil, astrid frisbey
 
I felt like these films of stories by Marcel Pagnol are illustrations of his story-telling as much as a Merchant & Ivory illustration of an EM Forster story. The Well-Digger's Daughter was made from a film by same title Pagnol wrote and directed, 1940. I felt like the nature of the script was a peep into his writing style. It was simple language and spare talking. They were country people, the people of the world Pagnol grew up in. He was writing of his own people as Faulkner wrote of his own people, regarding them with the respect only an insider could know they were due. It is this aspect of Pagnol's stories that satisfies me the most, that he reveals the rural hillbilly people of the French mountains in their humanity, their venality, their hate, jealousy, understanding, compassion, feeling, with respect. Running through his stories is an abundance of love, of looking for what constitutes real love instead of make-believe love. He doesn't look down on the country people. He looks up to them. It brings to mind my friend Jr Maxwell talking at his table over our drams, when he said he looks up to everybody. At the moment, I was thinking he said it because it sounds good. That was before I knew Jr well enough to know he didn't do that. As I knew him better, years going by, I saw he really did look up to everybody. His humility was that deep. Marcel Pagnol had a sense for, and an understanding of the intelligence of the country people seen from inside their own culture. Daniel Auteuil, who played the lead role, also directed this film, had a supporting actor role in the others, Florette and Manon, for which I believe he won the award at Cannes, 1986. With Well-digger's Daughter, 2011, he is that much older. My respect for Auteuil as an artist has skyrocketed. So has my respect for French writer Marcel Pagnol.
 
daniel auteuil
 
 
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