It's difficult to rate this on its own because it's the whole ("Florette" + "Manon") that makes this great. Soubeyran's twisted jealousy and hatred is palpable. Ugolin is a fool caught in the ugliness, cruelly but justly made to pay for his sins in the latter film. The story structure is essential and simple like a fable; the lessons are deep and true.
The use of the theme from Verdi’s Force of Destiny is perhaps key to this adaptation which plays Pagnol out as a kind of operatic agrarian fable in the manner of Bizet or Mascagni (not Verdi though) with broad strokes of immorality and skullduggery (not dissimilar to Chinatown) pitches against innocence and savvy decency. Uniformly beautiful to the eye and ear with just the right heightening of playing from the cast.
Character-driven French farmer drama.
Luck, mother nature, and two greedy schemers play tug-of-war with the fate of a young, sun-drenched, hunchbacked Gerard Depardieu and family, set against a visually stunning backdrop of rural France and a score with a personality.
Sucks you in terribly - mischief and heartache - I can't wait to watch the sequel!
"His corn husks will crack like patent leather shoes."