While it stands on its own, Jean de Florette (1986) can't help but feel like part of
a larger, massive story. A tale of betrayal, lies, and hope, Jean de Florette paints a
vivid portrait of life in the French countryside during the early part of the last century.
Cesar (Yves Montand) and Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) hatch a plan to take control of a
rare spring on a neighboring property by helping to make life unbearable for Jean
(Gérard Depardieu) who has recently inherited the land. While pretending to help
former city slicker Jean in his dreams of living off his farming, Ugolin and Cesar hide
the truth of the existence of the well, which they have plugged up, causing Jean to rely
on unpredictable rains and a brutal hike to a different water source. As the months and
years go by the treachery of Ugolin and Cesar causes heartbreak and tragedy for Jean,
his wife Aimee, and their young daughter Manon.
The ending, however, feels very abrupt. The reason for this is that Jean de
Florette is actually only part one, with Manon des Source telling the rest of
the story. The films were released a few months apart, which already was a mistake. At
2 hours each they feel incomplete. By releasing them separately on barebones DVDs
they are continuing to detract from the epic narrative.
The video is impressively crisp, although it is not anamorphic. Colors are vibrant and landscapes are
The audio is also quite good. It is Dolby Digital 2.0 and is in French with optional
English, French, and Spanish subtitles. There are moments during thunderstrikes when
the sound booms and cracks with real power.
The only extras are a trailer and some bios. A trailer for Manon should have
been included, but is not.
An effective and affecting film, Jean de Florette explores how casually cruel
people can be and how they can allow such shallow desires outweigh kindness, even
beyond the point of reason. The only flaw here is that the companion piece is missing.