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In a rural French village an old man and his only remaining relative cast their covetous eyes on an adjoining vacant property. They need its spring water for growing their flowers, so are dismayed to hear the man who has inherited it is moving in. They block up the spring and watch as their new neighbour tries to keep his crops watered from wells far afield through the hot summer. Though they see his desperate efforts are breaking his health and his wife and daughter's hearts they think only of getting the water.
Source : IMDb
Ugolin helps Jean draw water from the well, and by helping him gives him a false sense of friendship. The Provençal landscape, central to the film, can be seen in the background.
Marcel Pagnol's 1953 film Manon des Sources was four hours long, and subsequently cut by its distributor. The end result left Pagnol dissatisfied, and led him to retell the story as a novel. The first part of the novel, titled Jean de Florette, was an exploration of the background for the film; a prequel of sorts. Together the two volumes made up the work Pagnol called L'Eau des collines (The Water of the Hills). Berri came across Pagnol's book by chance in a hotel room, and was captivated by it. He decided that in order to do the story justice it had to be made in two parts.
Jean de Florette was filmed in and around the Vaucluse department of Provence, where a number of different places have been mentioned as filming locations. La Treille, east of Marseille, in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, was the village where Pagnol had shot the original film. The village is now within the city limits of Marseille and has undergone extensive development since the 1950s, so Berri had to find alternatives. For the village of the story he settled on Mirabeau (65km to the north), while Jean de Florette's house is located in Vaugines, where the church from the film can also be found. The market scenes were filmed in Sommières in the Gard, and the story's Les Romarins was in reality Riboux in the Var.
Extensive work was put into creating a genuine and historically correct atmosphere for the film. The facades of the houses of Mirabeau had to be replaced with painted polystyrene, to make them look older, and all electric wires were put underground. Meanwhile, in Vaugines, Berri planted a dozen olive trees twelve months before filming started, and watered them throughout the waiting period, and for the second installment planted 10,000 carnations on the farm.
Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were filmed together, over a period of thirty weeks, from May to December 1985. This allowed Berri to show the dramatic seasonal changes of the Provençal landscape. At $17 million, it was at the time the most expensive film project in French history. The long filming period and the constantly increasing cost put a great burden on the actors, many of whom frequently had to return to Paris for television or theatre work. Once completed, the release of the film was a great national event. A special promotional screening before the film's official release 27 August 1986, was attended by then Minister of Culture Jack Lang.
The musical score is based around the aria Invano Alvaro from Giuseppe Verdi's 1862 opera "La forza del destino".
The film was a great success in its native France, where it was seen by over seven million people. Also internationally it performed very well; in the United States it grossed nearly five million US$, placing it among the 100 most commercially successful foreign-language films shown there.
Critical reception for Jean de Florette was almost universally positive. Rita Kempley, writing for The Washington Post, compared the story to the fiction of William Faulkner. Allowing that it could indeed be "a definitive French masterwork", she reserved judgement until after the premiere of the second part, as Jean de Florette was only a "half-movie", "a long, methodic buildup, a pedantically paced tease". Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times commented on Berri's exploration of human character, "the feeling that the land is so important the human spirit can be sacrificed to it". Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars.
The staff reviewer for the entertainment magazine Variety highlighted – as other reviewers did as well – the cinematography of Bruno Nuytten (an effort that won Nuytten a BAFTA award and a César nomination). The reviewer commended Berri particularly for the work done with the small cast, and for his decision to stay true to Pagnol's original story. Richard Bernstein, reviewing the film for The New York Times, wrote it was "like no other film you've seen in recent years". He called it an updated, faster-paced version of Pagnol, where the original was still recognisable. The newspaper lists the film among the "Best 1000 Movies Ever Made". Later reviews show that the film has stood up to the passage of time. Tasha Robinson, reviewing the DVD release of the two films for The A.V. Club in 2007, called the landscape, as portrayed by Berri and Nuytten, "almost unbearably beautiful". Grading the films 'A', she called them "surprisingly tight and limber" for a four-hour film cycle.
Nominated for a total of eight César awards in 1987 – including 'Best Film', 'Best Director' and 'Best Cinematography' – Jean de Florette won only one, 'Best Actor' for Daniel Auteuil. At the BAFTA awards the next year it fared better, winning awards for 'Best Actor in a Supporting Role' (Auteuil), 'Best Cinematography', 'Best Film' and 'Best Adapted Screenplay'. The film also earned six more nominations, including both Depardieu and Montand in the 'Best Actor'-category, as well as 'Best Direction' and 'Best Foreign Language Film'. Amongst other honours for the film were a U.S. National Board of Review award for 'Best Foreign Language Film', and a 'Best Foreign Language Film' nomination at the 1988 Golden Globes.
Source : Wikipedia