"Jean de Florette," (1986), and its sequel (although, really, it’s simply a continuation of the story), MANON OF THE SPRING, constitute a singular French drama, a mouth- watering, award-winning color film. It is set apparently, in the early 20th century, in Provence, in the gorgeous, fertile south of France, and tells a bittersweet tale of life among the peasantry of the time. It is based on a novel, with which I am not familiar, by the noted French author Marcel Pagnol, with whose work, I regret, I am also not familiar, although I believe the author was also a screenwriter of note. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Claude Berri. The original score was written, and performed by Jean-Claude Petit and his orchestra; there are musical snatches throughout of the opera Verdi: La forza del destino by Guiseppi Verdi. Central to the tale are the schemings of Cesar Soubeyran, known as "Le Papet" locally, wealthy, almost last survivor of a dynasty of hard-working, successful peasants, and treated with great respect in the village. As played by the magnetic, older Yves Montand, (Wages Of Fear [DVD] ]), he is as hard a man as his long life has made him. Then, his possibly not all there nephew Ugolin, played by Daniel Auteil, always so successful at playing not particularly bright characters (The Closet [DVD] ) comes home from his stint in the army. The older man is anxious to see his nephew married, with children, settled locally, and making a living before his illnesses end his life. Accordingly, Cesar has his eye on a plot of land that adjoins his holdings, and several healthy looking girls in the village. But the land the Soubeyran family covets is sold to an outsider, a tax collector civil servant, a luckless hunchback played by the magnificent Gerard Depardieu, (Green Card [DVD] ).who comes bearing some regulation outsiders' French name, and a family to support. However, if Jean had been called by the name he should have been in the village, had they known who he really was, he would have been known locally as Jean de Florette, the title character. At any rate, the Soubeyrons, Cesar and Ugolin, pretend to befriend and help the naive and generous hunchback, who is inexperienced in farming, but has many ambitious plans, some of which are entirely unsuited for the location. Nevertheless,the Soubeyrons secretly work against the would-be farmer, most importantly by depriving him of water. Greedy, cruel behavior to be sure, with tragic consequences. MANON picks up the story of the Soubeyran family, as a tale of revenge. . We begin "Manon" with a glimpse of the title character, the daughter of Jean de Florette., in the person of the beautiful Emmanuelle Beart(Nathalie [DVD] ). After the death of her father, which she believes was caused by the Soubeyrans, she has grown up largely on her own, as her mother has had to seek work elsewhere. Manon is rather an uneducated wild child as a result: she has kept herself alive by being a shepherdess, in addition hunting small birds for sale. She decides to take revenge against the village that allowed the Soubeyrans to behave as they did, and deprives the village of its water, causing great chaos and consternation. Ugolin is deeply in love with her, but she, of course, will have nothing to do with him: she rather fancies the handsome young local schoolteacher, who is, however, miles above her in the village's social order. The film(s) are moving, powered by the work of their stars, as these characters work out their destinies, and reach a somewhat surprising conclusion: not the one for which Cesar had hoped, but one he can appreciate. Their visual leitmotif, the red carnations, will stick in your mind long afterwards. JEAN was nominated for a Golden Globe, and won several other awards. The films may be thought to have dated a bit, to be a bit too reliant on coincidence. Still, they seem to me grounded in reality. We watch the first telephones and automobiles creep into town, the appearance of new styles of dress. And I believe that French peasants, any peasants really, have historically wanted only certain things: land, with water on it; real gold, not paper scrip, and the success and survival of their families. A memorable piece of film-making that deals with great issues and truths in its way, and an enjoyable one, too.