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Manon Of The Spring

review by Anthony D.

Running Time: 114 minutes

Starring Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil, Emmanuelle Beart and Hippolyte Girardot

Screenplay by Claude Berri and Gerard Brach

Directed by Claude Berri

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic Widescreen, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Search

Retribution is given its due in Claude Berri's 1986 French drama "Manon of the Spring." Not necessarily a sequel to "Jean de Florette," rather a follow-through, "Manon" is a film which stands proudly on its own merits. Like its predecessor, "Manon of the Spring" transports us to the rugged hills of Provence for a multi-layered look at the fates of, and ultimate punishments for, the characters so vividly portrayed in "Jean de Florette." The events of "Jean de Florette" have their consequences played out in "Manon of the Spring," BUT this should not deter a viewer...all the information needed to enjoy this film is presented vividly, without once ever reverting to a flashback sequence from the first film.

Ten years have passed since the events that ended "Jean de Florette" occurred, and now with water flowing through the village, and riches gathering upon riches, it is time for the Florette family's revenge on those who brought about their downfall. Manon, who was but a child when she witnessed the final blow Le Papet (Yves Montand) and Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) struck against her family, is now a beautiful adolescent on the very edge of womanhood; and it is her mission to see that these villains are given their just desserts. Her beauty has not gone unnoticed by the new village schoolteacher (Hippolyte Girardot), nor by Ugolin, who seeks her as his bride. Manon is vividly realized by the ethereally beautiful Emmanuelle Beart (known to American audiences for roles in "Mission: Impossible" and "Date with an Angel"), and her growth from "child of the hills" to vengeful vixen is both complex and believable. That Manon's actions are only one portion of the retribution inflicted upon the wealthy landowners, but that the past has ghosts of its own to pay visits, make this a true classic film.

As part of MGM's exciting new WORLD FILMS series, "Manon of the Spring" has been issued in a glowing, though non-anamorphic, widescreen transfer with an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1. Unlike "Jean de Florette," however, the majority of "Manon of the Spring" takes place in the lush, outdoor settings of Provence, in the actual locations that Marcel Pagnol brought to life in his novel. Colors are good, befitting a film from the 1980's. Occasionally, though not often enough to detract from the film's enjoyment, the reds blush slightly towards the orange spectrum. The film itself is remarkably clean of artifacts, and the windswept rocks, hills and lush green valleys are presented with near-painterly precision. Subtitles are displayed, and quite legibly, in the black bar beneath the picture.

No new Dolby 5.1 track here; MGM has elected to retain the film's original Dolby Surround (2.0) French language track, and though dated, is not an unpleasant experience. The rear channels mostly bring the excellent score by Jean-Claud Petit into play. I actually found the Dolby Track on "Manon of the Spring" to be a fuller sonic experience than its predecessor, "Jean de Florette."

As for the extras, MGM has given us one single release Trailer which makes excellent use of Petit's score, and fortunately gives away none of the secrets of the film.

"Manon of the Spring" is overflowing with incredible, indelible images - - Ugolin's thriving carnation garden, Manon's au naturel danse upon the rocks, Le Papet's knowing look of despair when a major truth is revealed - - and filled with characters carefully created and embodied vividly on the screen by a true ensemble of actors making it one of my personal favorite foreign language films. Prior knowledge of "Jean de Florette" is not an absolute requirement for viewing "Manon of the Spring;" rather like a glass of good Cabernet, which can be savored alone, or as part of a healthy meal. Fine French dining, indeed.

(5/5 - NOT included in final score)




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