Jean de Florette (1986)
Main Menu Audio
Trailer-The Music Teacher, The Bear, Cyrano De Bergerac
Trailer-Manon Des Sources
|Year Of Production||1986|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Claude Berri|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Marcel Pagnol was a French playwright and novelist who specialised in writing stories about his beloved Provençe. In the 1930s, fired with enthusiasm by the sound cinema, he used money earned from his writings to buy land in Provençe and found a film studio. Initially writing films directed by others, he soon took over the reins himself and discovered a talent for filmmaking. Over the next decade he directed several classics of the French cinema, such as César, Angèle, Regain and La Femme du Boulanger. Pagnol's films are characterised by his gift for dialogue and his appreciation of the Provençe countryside, which even in black and white looks stunning.
At the time of writing, none of Pagnol's own films is available on DVD, not even in his native France.
In 1952 Pagnol wrote and directed a film in two parts: Manon des Sources and Ugolin. With a total running time of nearly four hours, the films could not be released, so Pagnol cut the film down to just over three hours. It was a critical and commercial flop. Ten years later, two novels by Pagnol based on the screenplay were published, under the joint title The Water of the Hills. These were Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, and a dozen years after Pagnol's death they were brought to the screen again by Claude Berri. This time the films were a success, both with critics and audiences around the world.
The first part, set in the 1930s, begins with Ugolin Soubeyran (Daniel Auteuil) returning from army service to live with his only relative, his uncle Papet (Yves Montand). Ugolin is somewhat dim-witted, but he plans to make a living farming carnations. The only problem is that their farm does not have sufficient water to produce carnations in any quantity. Pique-Bouffigue's farm has a spring that has not been tapped. When Pique-Bouffigue dies, his farm is inherited by his nephew Jean, son of his sister Florette. Jean (Gérard Depardieu) is a hunchbacked tax collector who has grandiose plans for the farm. But he has not reckoned on the Soubeyrans, who prior to his arrival have blocked up and sealed the spring. They want to ruin Jean and buy his farm for a pittance, so that they can get their hands on a supply of water.
Jean arrives with his opera singer wife and their young daughter Manon. At first, with welcome rains, Jean is able to get his farm going. But soon there is a drought. The Soubeyrans think that they are about to get the farm, but they have underestimated the indefatigable Jean. Egged on by his uncle behind the scenes, Ugolin strikes up a friendship with Jean, but his intentions are less than honourable.
This is a marvellous film and it is difficult to imagine it being done better. Claude Berri's direction is virtually invisible, so that nothing gets in the way of the story. The cinematography of Bruno Nuytten is sublime, capturing the greens and yellows of the Provence countryside to perfection. The performances of the cast are all first rate. Gérard Depardieu has never been better than as the blindly optimistic hunchback. Daniel Auteuil gives his finest performance as Ugolin, and Yves Montand gives great depth to the venal Papet.
Being such a great film, it is extremely disappointing that it has received such a poor video transfer.
The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 displays. The aspect ratio does not look quite right. I think the problem is that the image has been zoomed in, so that there is some cropping on every side.
The film is not sharp at all. Just about every scene is slightly blurry. There seems to be a layer of detail missing. For example, it is not easy to pick out individual leaves on trees or blades of grass, even when these are in focus and in the foreground. Shadow detail is quite poor as well. It seems as though the contrast has been excessively boosted. The transfer has the look of one of those films or TV shows shot on early digital video. It just does not look right, not at all like it looked in the cinema.
Colour is also an issue. The colour seems to be oversaturated, with a slight bluish-green tinge. The actor's faces look brownish and not lifelike at all. Bruno Nuytten's cinematography is not shown to any advantage here.
Film to video artefacts are thankfully few, with some aliasing at times. There are some film artefacts, including dirt and flecks, but these are kept to a minimum. There is a reel change marking at 30:42. The film is a little grainy, but this is not excessive either. There is a problem with telecine wobble, which is present almost throughout. This is quite irritating as it is noticeable, and possibly contributes to the lack of overall sharpness.
This is a single layered disc. English subtitles are provided, in yellow. The subtitles are well done and translate all of the dialogue.
The single audio track is French Dolby Digital 2.0. This is the original audio mix and is reasonably well done.
While the dialogue is slightly sibilant and the full dynamic range is missing, the audio is clear and distinct.
The music score is by Jean-Claude Petit and is very effective. For the most part it is based on themes from the opera La Forza del Destino (The Force of Destiny) by Giuseppe Verdi, which surprisingly suits this material very well.
Dolby Pro Logic gets some surround and subwoofer signals out of this mix, which works best when music is playing.
|Surround Channel Use|
A pretty poor selection of extras is on offer.
This is an original trailer with French subtitles, presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for 16x9 displays. If anything, this is sharper than the actual film.
Four trailers are provided, for The Music Teacher, The Bear, Cyrano De Bergerac and Manon Des Sources. All are widescreen but only Manon des Sources is 16x9 enhanced. All are in French and The Music Teacher has no subtitles.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This film is available on DVD in several regions.
The UK Region 2 DVD from Pathe appears to be the same transfer as the Region 4, as far as I can tell.
The Region 1 DVD is from MGM/UA and is a different transfer to the Region 4. The excessive colour saturation is not present on the Region 1 DVD, but from screenshots I have seen it looks very washed out. Reviews of this disc refer to artefacting not present in the Region 2 transfer, and also that it may have been cropped. There is a comparison with screenshots available here. Note also that this transfer is not 16x9 enhanced.
There is a French Region 2 release as well. Second hand reports indicate that this is a better transfer than in other regions, plus it has substantial extras including interviews with the director and cinematographer. Unfortunately this release has no subtitles, not even French.
On the basis of the above, no-one is the winner, so I will call this a draw.
A superb film that should be in the DVD collection of everyone with an interest in French cinema or in fine filmmaking. Unfortunately, this DVD is not the one to own. Even more unfortunately, there is no recommendable alternative, unless you speak French.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-S733A, using Component output|
|Display||Sony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Yamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains|
|Speakers||Main: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175|