Post # 300 Uncle Bardie’s Movie of the Week: A two-fer

Once a week on Monday, Uncle Bardie shares a movie with his Readers he gives a big two thumbs up. It will simply be a short excerpt or a trailer. Uncle Bardie might even throw in a reflection on the movie. If so, it will make an appearance below the video. So pop some popcorn and give yourself a treat. This week’s movie is “Jean de Florette” (1986) & “Manon of the Spring” (1986):

A good movie is like a good novel. It tells a story well; with characters we deeply care about. Sometimes it takes more than one novel/film to complete the story. This is the case of the three novels/movies: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest”. And this is the case of “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring”.

“Jean de Florette” is the story of an undiscovered crime; “Manon of the Spring” follows with the revenge. One film does not make sense without the other. “Jean de Florette” opens with a man returning to his village after serving his time in the army. Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) is young and ambitious. He has returned to grow carnations, feeling that this is a way for him to do well financially. There is only problem. He doesn’t have enough water.

His uncle, Papet (Yves Montaud), knows where there is a hidden spring on a neighbor’s property. Unfortunately the two of them offer the neighbor a price and he refuses. Papet gets in a fight with the neighbor and accidentally kills him. The neighbor’s sister’s son inherits the property.

Jean de Florette (Gerard Depardieu) is a city fellow who decides he wants to farm. Ugolin and Papet scheme to prevent the farm from prospering. Like the good neighbors they are, they do not reveal the location of the spring. Jean de Florette does not give up trying to make a go of the farm. Ugolin and Papet “help” Jean de Florette out with lots of false information.

It is the clash of two obsessions. Ugolin and Papet’s obsession to buy the farm, Jean de Florette’s obsession to be a prosperous farmer. It is a terrible thing to watch an honest man’s dreams die. Eventually the hard work hauling water from miles away and the struggle farming kills him, thanks to Ugolin and Papet’s schemes. Resigned, Jean’s wife, Aimee (Gerard Depardieu’s wife, Elisabeth), sells the farm to Ugolin. Just as the mother and daughter are leaving, Manon, Jean and Aimee’s daughter, sees Ugolin and Papet loosen the rocks from the hidden spring. Their greed has got the best of them.

“Manon of the Spring” picks up some years later. Manon (Emmanuelle Béart), Jean and Aimee’s daughter, is now a woman. She returns to the village to avenge her father. But it is more than a drama of revenge. It is about obsession and how it can destroy. It is about lost love. It is about discovery. And it is about family.

Based on the novels by Marcel Pagnol, Claude Berri’s epic masterpiece introduced audiences to Provence. For me, I was so impressed with these two films I went on to see the films based on Pagnol’s memoirs, “My Mother’s Castle” and “My Father’s Glory”. I have seen all four movies several times and they remain some of my favorite French films.

Not many films move me to say, “Wow.” Marcel Pagnol and Claude Berri have done that with “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring”. And please remember, the two should be seen together. If you can see them in one evening,  please do. You won’t regret it.