Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring
Jean de Florette and Manon des sources were released in 1987, as two parts of the same tale. And what a tale. I remember loving it back then – and 21 years later, it's still compelling, luminous and heartbreaking. The story (based on the famous novel by Marcel Pagnol) is one of greed, manipulation, tragedy and revenge in the simplest of settings – a small village in Provence, southern France.
Hunchbacked Jean Cadoret (Gerard Depardieu) is a tax collector from the city who inherits a run-down farm – as well as a duplicitous neighbor, Ugolin Soubeyron, played brilliantly by Daniel Auteuil. I won't reveal any more of the plot – this classic deserves to be seen and savored without spoilers. As does the backdrop of rural France.
It's positively golden, with green rolling hills, stony cottages, rabbits and goats, bathed in warm Mediterranean sunlight. The entire movie is set on the land and in beautiful stone farmhouses, with only occasional excursions into the nearby village.
According to the IMDB, the movies were filmed all over the south of France, primarily in Bouches-du-Rhône/Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, the region in which Marcel Pagnol was born. More specifically the towns of Ansouis, Vaugines and Mirabeau in Vaucluse were used for scenes in the local village, with its stony streets and fountained courtyard.
Most of the incredible rural scenery you see is near Marseilles around Cuges-les-Pins, nearby Riboux, and the Sainte-Baume massif. Other locations featured include the medieval town of Sommières in Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon; and Signes in Var.
Local legend has it that when God created the earth, the sun and all of their components, he used the leftovers to create a paradise between the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. A land that is now called Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true.
It's this land that ignites passion in Jean, Ugolin and Manon. The land, with its extreme beauty and extreme climate, is both their obsession and their undoing. Talking of obsession, if you'd like to visit all of the sites in the movies, check out this blog, which travels through them in extraordinary detail. You'll want to do the same. Well, almost. – Roshan McArthur