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JEAN DE FLORETTE/MANON OF THE SPRING

        

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

When my oldest daughters were teenagers I took them to see “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring” (both 1986, in French with English subtitles), which were playing as a double feature a few years after they had initially been released.

I had earlier reviewed the films for the Deseret News and I really wanted to share them with my girls, but they were hesitant because they hadn’t really seen any foreign-language films yet and weren’t sure they wanted to be reading subtitles while trying to watch the action.

And did I mention they were teenagers?

But they eventually agreed, and, just as I knew they would, both became so caught up in “Jean de Florette” that they couldn’t wait for the second film to start after the intermission.

The gripping story, set in rural southern France at the conclusion of World War II has to do with a greedy old farmer (Yves Montand) who realizes he isn’t going to live forever so he plans to leave his land to his nephew (Daniel Auteuil).

The nephew takes an interest in carnations and his initial crop sells well, impressing his uncle — but they don’t have enough water to keep the ever-thirsty flowers going.

        

Gerard Depardieu, left, Daniel Auteuil, 'Jean de Florette'

A nearby plot of land with a spring would solve their problem but it has been inherited by a city dweller named Jean de Florette (Gerard Depardieu) who plans to become a farmer. But he’s inexperienced and hinges his dreams on the spring, for which he has a map — but he can’t find it. And his neighbors successfully hide it from him.

The second film focuses on Jean’s daughter Manon (Emanuelle Beart) and how she manages to get revenge on the now-elderly farmer and his nephew, leading to an ending that is ironic and quite surprising.

Claude Berri directs these films in a deliberate manner building his characters so that you really feel you get to know them well, and the story is genuinely engrossing.

Plus, the gorgeous countryside is stunning in this new double-feature Blu-ray debut from the Shout! Factory.

I can’t recommend these films highly enough.