Manon of the Spring (1986) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)


Manon of the Spring is the sequel to Jean de Florette, and is also named Jean de Florette, Second Part, in the opening titles.

In the first part, a city family moves to rural France with great dreams. The citified father is an educated hunchback (Gerard Depardieu), who plans to start a new life as a farmer, and has read every book he could find on the subject. A local patriarch sabotages the man's plans by blocking the source of water necessary to run the farm. The hunchback still did not give up, and worked 24/7 to haul water from the nearby town, but the great effort killed him. The patriarch was able to buy the "waterless" land for nothing, re-open the spring, and give his nephew a career income, raising flowers on the renascent land.


Emmanuelle Beart does a naked dance among her goats while Ugolin spies on her.
This movie has seeped into the popular culture of France, of films in general, and even of the United States. If you remember the episode of the Simpsons where Bart was sent to France as an exchange student, you may remember that he was turned into a virtual slave laborer by Ugolin and Cesar - the names of the loutish nephew and the patriarch. (Daniel Auteuil and Yves Montand)

"Manon" occurs about a decade later, and is the revenge of the hunchback's daughter, who comes back to the tiny rural Provence community as a grown and beautiful woman, and eventually develops a complex plan to destroy the arrogant Cesar and pathetic, love-smitten Ugo.

While the first film is a straightforward character-based narrative which represents an uncompromising portrait of the ugly side of human nature, the second film has more complex twists and turns in the plot. In fact it even has an O Henry ending which I'm about to tell you, so you may want to skip the next paragraph.

DVD info from Amazon.

Widescreen letterboxed, 2.35:1. For once, there is a good, clear, colorful Region 1 DVD transfer of a classic French movie instead of the usual all-green or color-faded monstrosity.

No features except an English trailer.

It turns out that the hunchback he destroyed was the very son that Cesar always wished for, and that therefore the woman who destroyed him, and caused Ugo to hang himself, was his own granddaughter. So in the end, he got the perfect consequences for his acts. All of his evil scheming was based on defending his family against "outsiders", but he did have a sense of values, and prized his family. It was thus fitting that his vicious plot destroyed the closest family he had. In the tragic ending, his granddaughter is having a joyous wedding. We see him carrying flowers toward the church, but he is not invited. Instead, he places the flowers on a nearby grave.

It is considered a great movie, and fairly so, although the web it spins is slowly spun. Yves Montand (real name Ivo Livi) is exceptional as Cesar.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 3/4, Ebert 4/4. Although only 15 years old, Manon and Jean de Florette are already considered cinema classics. (Maltin is an exception. He liked it, but most film scholars would consider three stars too low.)

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 8.0, the equivalent of four stars.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a B.

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