Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jean de Florette + Manon of the Spring

This is how I spend my Sunday afternoons during the midst of the summer sun, heat and light—watch two connected French films that run about four hours between the pair of them. I somehow missed this highly acclaimed duo from director Claude Berri when they were released in 1986 but I’m kind of glad I waited to view them, as it would have been painful to sit out the delay from part one to part two. Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring should be watched in one sitting to get the full effect and power of the story.

Based on a novel by Marcel Pagnol, the films are set over a span of around a decade in the early 20th century and in an unbelievably idyllic setting of France. The locations are rugged, quaint and stunningly gorgeous. Although the film rarely ventures from the setting of a couple of farms, farmhouses and the nearby village, both films are swamped in a feeling of epic quality. This is largely due to the subject matter in the films.

The films have everything you want in four hours of French historical drama: greed, betrayal, doomed love, new love, the struggle for survival, murder, the beautiful rural French countryside, revenge, rustic architecture, crusty villagers, mystery, suspense and a terrific cast—Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Emmanuelle Beart lead the way.

Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring is a gripping experience that get a rare five stars for me for a first time viewing. The key word that sums up these films: experience. Watching them, embroiled in this story of deceit, the miserable heat outside disappeared, I was in France, I was in these farmhouses and fields, and that’s a much better way to spend an afternoon than to wander outside in the brutal Oklahoma summer.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I've thought about watching these for ages because of Daniel Auteuil. Now, I'll have to watch them on your recommendation.