April 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Founder Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /April01/



Jean Claude PETIT
Jean de Florette
Manon des Sources OST SILVA SCREEN FILMCD 329 [35:51]

First let's air the grouse. Looking at these two CDs each with timings of approximately 35 minutes each, prompts the obvious question - why were they not combined into one 69:52 minute CD? Especially since they are being reissued -- the films were originally made in 1986. Granted they have been remastered in HDCD, so that they sound stunning, but this hardly merits such an expensive presentation.

Having got that off my chest I hasten to add that Jean Claude Petit's scores are exquisite. Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, set in the south of France, are based on novels by Marcel Pagnol about rural greed (over the possession of water), vendettas and unrequitted love - the stuff of operas. Indeed, the director Claude Berri asked Petit, to consider adapting an operatic aria for the main theme - an aria that was simple, effective but not too famous. Petit's source choice was Verdi's La forza del destino. Those familiar with the Overture to this Verdi opera will instantly recognise the tune that is played on the harmonica by Jean (Gerard Depardieu ) the innocent and enthusiastic but misguided giant, the grower of carnations, and the target of the greedy Soubeyrans: Cesar (Yves Montand) and Ugolin (Daniel Auteuil). This theme and other material, again recognisable from Verdi's Overture, is developed throughout both scores.

But there are other delights. There is music that speaks of the quietness of the sun-drenched landscape of Provence - idyllic and timeless and subtly folk-like. At other points faster folk dance material is heard and the steely, harpsichord-like sound of the psaltery enhances the rustic atmosphere. Petit's droll sense of humour is present in the Manon tracks that underscore Ugolin fatally falling in love with Jean's daughter now grown up to exact revenge on the Soubeyrans responsible for her father's death and the misappropriation of his land. The music for 'Manon's Love' has an appropriate hard edge. Darkly dramatic material is featured in such tracks as 'The Hearse' and 'The Thunderstorm'. Added to all these delights, are two memorable tracks on the Manon disc: 'Manon's Marriage' an idealistic song of mutual love and dedication (sung by Gabriel Bacquier and Eve Brenner to words by David McNeil) that reminded me of the music of Fauré; and 'The Shepherd', a provençal chorale sounding much like Canteloube.

Barring the unnecessarily bulky and expensive split over two CDs, this music is heartily recommended. I would add that the notes are exactly the same for both discs - another unnecessary waste - why could there not have been a much more helpful track-by-track analysis?

Ian Lace

Music and Sound:


We asked SILVA SCREEN to comment on my criticism about spreading this music over two CDs. James Fitzpatrick replied:-

"Ideally I would have liked to have presented both scores on 1 CD, unfortunately our contract with Renn Productions did not allow for this."

Gary S. Dalkin adds:-

To all intents and purposes Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources comprise one film. They were made together by the same cast and production team under the direction of Claude Berri and tell one story, the second part of which is set a decade after the first. They were scored together by Jean-Claude Petit, and should be considered as much a single entity as the four parts of War and Peace (1968), the two parts of the full version of Novecento (1976) the two parts of the complete Fanny and Alexander (1982) and the two parts of Little Dorrit (1988), all of which necessitated two visits to the cinema to see the complete film. The booklet notes, which are identical for these two albums, containing a synopsis of each film and the same transcribed interview with the composer, reflect this fact.

The film is a drama of greed, betrayal and revenge played out among peasants in rural France in the 1920's and 30's. The main theme, sometimes presented with harmonica solo by Toots Thielmans, whose soundtrack affiliations go back to Midnight Cowboy (1969), has become famous, to far more people than would ever watch a French art movie, for its tacky exploitation on a larger advert. The theme itself is actually adapted from Verdi's opera La Forza del Destino and there is something both Italianate and operatic about much of the score. Passages may suggest Ennio Morricone or Nino Rota, with even a distant reminder of the descending suspense motif from The Godfather (1972). None of which is to suggest that this music is deliberately derivative. Only to indicate influences which also seem to span the elegant waltz-like suspense writing of Bernard Hermann, the shimmering filigree orchestral textures of Debussy and the vast heritage of French folk music.

Both albums are filled with melody, lyricism charm and elegant writing. Together they combine to make a film music masterpiece, the mood just occasionally marred by the frankly silly - as in Monty Python level silly - 'Les Artistes'. A gorgeous, indispensable score, but it should all be on one album. Hence just stars for each disc. Add them together for the true value of this marvellous music.
Jean de Florette
Manon des Sources

Gary S. Dalkin

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