Manon des Sources is really Jean de Florette Part 2.
It cannot be seen satisfactorily, or understood, unless the earlier movie has been seen. And this review should not be read until you've seen part one. If you've read this far, stop now - just accept that this is a film of great drama and strange beauty which you will want to revisit time and again.
Now, for those who have seen Jean de Florette, read on. This drama is set in the French countryside of Provence, in the 1930s, where the inhumanity of man is at such contrast to the beauty of his surroundings.
In the first episode we saw how the rapacious greed of Cesar Souberyan, the prosperous Provence villager, first poisoned the mind of his nephew Ugolin, and how they together brought about the death of Jean de Florette, just to acquire his land and valuable spring.
But Jean left behind a daughter, who has grown up to be the beautiful goat-herder Manon. She had always distrusted Ugolin, and his too-constant offers of help to her family. Now she discovers how Ugolin and his uncle plotted the ruin of her father, and in effect causing his death. And she plans her revenge.
Ugolin has spied on Manon as she moves amongst the hills of Provence with her goats, and as she bathes naked in fresh pools of rainwater. And he has fallen besottedly in love with her. And into this tangled equation has come the young village schoolteacher, Bernard. Those are the strands which are being knitted together to create an extraordinary web.
How Manon exacts her revenge is almost biblical in its nature. The results are not totally predictable and the final twist in the tale is worthy of Guy de Maupassant himself, it's a superb denouement.
The acting, direction and cinematography are again first-rate. Yves Montand as Soubeyran is the most outstanding cast member, with beautifully delineated and subtle layers of character, and Daniel Auteuil is almost as impressive as his crazed nephew Ugolin. Emmanuelle Beart is very pretty as Jean de Florette's daughter Manon - she really isn't called on to do much more than look pretty, but she is fabulous at that.
These comparisons are always totally subjective, but I found this part two of Jean de Florette more compelling - certainly a lot more satisfying - than part one. But it will mean nothing unless you've seen that first part. This is indispensable viewing - but the two films must be seen as a pair and are best consumed at once.
As with part one, this is a beautifully detailed anamorphic transfer, with shimmering and vibrant colours and strong detail. Artefacts are few and there is no aliasing nor other distracting imperfections.
Night and interior scenes are well rendered, with plenty of detail within the shadows. This is a superior transfer of a superior movie.
As with the first movie, the excellently translated subtitles are rendered in yellow for maximum visibility.
The two-channel Dolby Digital stereo is on a par with the first movie, which means excellent. Once again, a fine level of ambience is achieved, with believable background noises which are kept at a level which ensures maximum concentration on dialogue.
The music is rendered very faithfully, with no peaking or distortion. Again, the music features a theme from Verdi's The Force of Destiny arranged for mouth-organ. Sounds hideous, doesn't it? In fact it's hauntingly beautiful.