Thursday, 12 March 2009

Jean de Florette (1986) & Manon des Sources (1986)

The first French film I ever saw at the cinema ten years ago was Manon des Sources, stupid really because it's a sequel, well, not even a sequel, it's part two of one story. Finally I've seen Jean de Florette (part one) and then two hours later rewatched Manon.
I remembered everything that happened in part two, I remembered every scene. This might not mean much to you but it proves to me that I must have thought, aged 13, that it was a good story and very beautifully shot, even if I had no idea what was happening and who the bossu was... I say it must mean something because a few nights ago I went out with my pal Lauren who remembered a film we saw four years ago starring Robert DeNiro which I have no recollection of at all- and this was when I was teetotal!- Lauren, Susie and I went to see a lot of rubbish films, I never realised that poor Lauren has the misfortune of a working brain and so she remembers all this crap, I have a brain like a sieve and don't remember any of the DeNiro film, only that Greg Kinnear was in it and I think he looked anxious at one point, also the poster was grey.
I remembered the big secret that is revealed to Yves Montand at the end of Manon, but I didn't remember that he didn't know it from the beginning, so a lot of the time I was thinking "Why's he being such a horrific bastard?!" instead of just; "Why's he being such a bastard?!" I cottoned on eventually that this memory of mine must be the twist! And said nothing to Anna.
Jean de Florette is a film about two men who want to grow carnations but need the land recently inherited by a city hunchback and his family because it is the only land around that has it's own private spring. Yes, the French can make a film with this story and make it a spellbinding classic. Manon des Sources is a film about the hunchback's beautiful daughter getting revenge on the carnation growers.
So why are the French so obsessed with hunchbacks? Anyone see Le Bossu(1997) starring Daniel Auteuil? Yes, the hunchback bits were funny and Auteuil was at his peak of sexiness, but that film is ALL WRONG! Oh my God. You thought The Importance of Being Earnest was wrong ("Hey, that means we're cousins! Thank god! Now we can get married!") Le Bossu ends with father and daughter making out in front of a huge crowd of people- and this is supposed to be a happy ending!!
Anna asked after we'd watched the films tonight "which did you prefer?" They are two chapters of the same story, and the first half of Manon was as good as all of Jean de Florette but the second half was a little slow and I got the feeling maybe Manon was as intelligent as Ugolin as all she did was stare blankly at her supposed beloved with her massive eyes. It was only the introduction of the teacher as Manon's boyf that I think slowed it down, nobody cares about Manon's future, we care about her past and the revenge she's laying out! (Also we care about her goats and that cute noise she makes to summon them.)
Jean de Florette was a wonderful story full of excellent characters, Auteiul as creepy Ugolin and his puppet master Papet played by Yves Montand were really horrible, I hated them, and Gerard Depardieu was absolutely wonderful as the optimistic, enthusiastic and trusting bossu, Jean, he suited that hunch. My mum said that she found him irritating in the end, God she is such a hypocrite!! Jean is a city man who inherits a farm and just wants to live the dream, grow his own food and live a simple country life, the villagers all hate him because he's from the city and none of them tell him in two years that there is a spring practically under his  nose, they watch him suffer and eventually die. My mother moved from London to Yorkshire 20 years ago and people still react strangely to her, country folk don't like townies (or is it that northerners don't like southerners?).
Anyway, I loved Depardieu, I thought he was wonderful and I felt so sorry for him, I, like Manon, wanted to kill those two bastards!! Ah, Emmanuel Beart, so beautiful, yet vacant and kind of creepy in the end... Auteuil, you were so gross in those films, I realise now my first impression of you was probably as an ugly, retarded, pervert, and now you're one of my top pinups. And yet I had a feeling that in real life, off the screen, Beart and Daniel Auteuil probably were romantically linked... HA! They were together for ten years and have a daughter! Sick!!

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