Co-adapted by director Claude Berri from a novel by Marcel Pagnol, this hugely successful French historical drama concerns a bizarre battle royale over a valuable natural spring in a remote French farming community. City dweller Jean Cadoret (GÃÂ©rard Depardieu) assumes ownership of the spring when the original owner is accidentally killed by covetous farmer Cesar Soubeyran (Yves Montand). Soubeyran and his equally disreputable nephew Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil) pull every dirty trick in the book to force Cadoret off his land, but the novice farmer stands firm. Although the Soubeyrans appear to gain the upper hand, the audience is assured that they will eventually be foiled by the vengeful daughter of the spring's deceased owner -- thus setting the stage for the film's equally successful sequel, Manon of the Spring.
Manon of the Spring (Manon des Sources) has also been released as Jean de Florette II in the US, as it is a sequel to Claude Berri's Jean de Florette. Both films are drawn from the same source: Filmmaker/novelist Marcel Pagnol's 1952 rural romance, also titled Jean de Florette. Manon (Emmanuelle Beart), now fully grown, is a shepherdess who prefers to keep her distance from the local villagers. She is determined to uncover the truth behind the death of her father (played by Gerard Depardieu in Jean de Florette) and to wreak vengeance on the men she holds responsible. The more sympathetic of the two men, Ugolin (Daniel Auteil), is in love with Manon, but this does not weaken her resolve. She causes the village's water supply to diminish, blaming this action upon Ugolin and his duplicitous co-conspirator Cesar (Yves Montand). The upshot of this vengeful behavior ends in tragedy for all concerned. The joint winners of eight French Cesar awards, Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring were released to the U.S. in tandem in 1987. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide