Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jean de Florette and Manon des Souces (Manon of the Spring)

I was lucky enough to discover these two 1986 movies -mainly thanks to a dearest friend- that are outstandingly good even when you see them 30 years after they were released, as not only the story is timeless but the most outstanding cast performances are absolutely superb and also timeless.

In these movies you will be able to see fantastic Yves Montand, young but incredibly good Daniel Auteuil; only in Jean de Florette a young with a strong performance Gérard Depardieu and only in Manon a very young Emmanuelle Béart with an incredible screen presence and outstanding performance.

Sometimes when you see movies with actors that you know today, you feel and see them more like today they are than how they were; but these are two of those movies that are really timeless and you will not think about how Béart, Gepardieu and Auteuil look today, as you will be absolutely immersed in their characters and will forget about the actors. This is unusually excellent as you will spend quite a few hours feeling all sort of emotions, enjoying a cinematography that at times looks like the most beautiful paintings from French Impressionism and a director, Claude Berri, that takes a classic story (very similar to a Greek tragedy) and makes two absolutely amazing movies to watch.

I have to be honest with you, I saw first Manon –which is the second part- but as soon as I started to read about the movie and found that there was a beginning to this story, I had to see it. Luckily I was able to see it and even if I saw the first part last I have to say that I equally enjoyed both movies as great cinema masterpieces and the complete story based in a 1966 two-part novel by Marcel Pagnol called L’Eau des Collines, which was based on a screenplay he wrote that became a 1953 movie that he also directed called Manon des Sources –which I hope I’ll be able to see eventually. Have to say that finding about Marcel Pagnol also became very interesting and if you want to learn more about him I suggest you go here.

Both films take place in a small village of Provence in Occitania, the south of France. Jean de Florette begins shortly after the First World War and is about greed with César Soubyran aka Papet (Yves Montand) and his nephew Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) plotting to get Jean Cadoret aka de Florette (Gérard Depardieu) land to grow carnations. What Jean Cadoret, his wife and his daughter Manon will have to endure is truly an emotion-wrecking voyage.

Manon des Souces opens 10 years after the end of the first film and is all about revenge and fate; tells the story of Manon (Emmanuelle Béart) and how she’s able to release all the anger she has for what she witnessed when a child. But when the story starts to unveil things that have been kept secret, the story evolves in the most unexpected way that truly resembles a great Greek tragedy.

As a movie I was most impressed with Jean de Florette, even when both films were filmed simultaneously I feel they are different, with the first being more cinematically outstanding. Manon is great, but not as good as the first one; but, obviously is a great sequel because of the story twists.

I just loved being able to see Montand, Gepardieu and Auteuil together this was an outstanding cast with absolutely great performances, but somehow I feel that Auteuil steals both movies, he is amazing as ugly Ugolin. Emanuelle is just beautiful to watch with her solid screen presence that absolutely tells that she was and will be in the future the great actress she is.

Jean de Florette is a multiple award winner movie that includes Best Film at 1988 BAFTA’s and the 1988 London Critics Circle Film Awards; has many more nominations that include Best Foreign Language Film at the 1988 Golden Globes. Also the film was selected by the New York Times as one of “The Best 1000 Movies Ever Made”. Especially Daniel Auteuil won some awards and nominations that include the Best Actor at the 1987 César Awards.

Manon des Sources also has some nominations and wins, including Emmanuelle Béart winning the Best Supporting Actress at the 1987 César Awards. Both movies were honored with the Best Foreign Language Film Award at the 1987 National Board of Review, USA.

I strongly recommend these two movies to all serious cinephiles, those that enjoy French cinema and those that do not want to miss excellent performances by three great French actors Yves Montand, Gérard Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil.

I also strongly suggest that you see both movies together, first Jean de Florette and then Manon des Sources to be able to enjoy more the story.

Big Enjoy!!!

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