Thursday, September 17, 2015

The World of Jacques Demy




Written and directed by Agnes Varda, L’univers de Jacques Demy (The World of Jacques Demy) is a documentary in which Varda pays tribute to her late husband through the films he made as well as his life. Featuring interviews with those that worked with him, the film is a look into one French cinema’s finest filmmakers. The result is a lively and touching portrait of one of the great filmmakers that ever lived.

Among the filmmakers who emerged during the era of the French New Wave, Jacques Demy was someone who didn’t fit in with that movement due to his love for American musicals and fantasy as he would cultivate a career that is considered one of the finest in cinema. Created in the span of two years, Agnes Varda creates not just a solemn tribute to her husband but would also interview some of his collaborators, fans of his work, and the actors that worked with him. Even as Varda goes into detail about his own life with the aid of their children, her sister-in-law, and old friends as well as the places he grew up in as the town would also pay tribute to the filmmaker.

Through various film clips and rare behind-the-scenes footage which would feature those anyone wouldn’t expect in a Demy film set like Jim Morrison at the set of Donkey Skin who would give Delphine Seyrig’s son his autograph. The actors such as Michel Piccoli, Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve, Dominique Sanda, Anouk Aimee, Jacques Perrin, Nino Castelnuovo talk about their experiences working with Demy and his films. Much of it show that they all have pleasant experiences with him where Deneuve recalled doing The Umbrellas of Cherbourg as the first time she felt she was working with a real filmmaker. Many of his films are covered including the ones that weren’t successful like Lady Oscar and Parking where clips of interviews by Demy talk about the way things are in the industry where not all of his films are successful.

The film also showcases Demy’s brief flirtation in Hollywood when he was making Model Shop as a sequel to Lola with Anouk Aimee where the original male lead was supposed to be an up-and-coming actor named Harrison Ford who is also interviewed where he talks about how much Demy and one of the film’s producer wanted him to be in the film. Instead, studios chose Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey for the role which Demy wasn’t happy with though the resulting film was something Demy thought was good but not great. With the aid of cinematographers Stephane Krausz, Peter Pilafian, and Georges Strouve, along with editor Marie-Josee Audiard and the sound work of Thierry Ferreux and Jean-Luc Rault-Cheynet, Varda chose a different approach to narrative where she goes for a more non-linear look into Demy’s life and work.

Adding to the film’s whimsical tone are the music pieces by Michel Colombier and Michel Legrand who are both featured in the film as they talk about Demy’s approach to music. Much of the music that appears in the film is from Demy’s films as it adds to his love for music and what it means to him. Even as some fans of his films including some ordinary people know some of the songs by heart as the actors in those films would sing bits of these songs. It adds to the power of Demy’s influence and the impact he made in the world of films.

L’univers de Jacques Demy is a phenomenal film from Agnes Varda. It’s not just one of Varda’s finest documentaries but also a touching and exhilarating tribute to her late husband in Jacques Demy. Notably as it’s a film that displays some unique surprises about Demy and his work and how much he means to audiences all over the world. In the end, L’univers de Jacques Demy is a sensational film from Agnes Varda.

© thevoid99 2015

3 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

I'm not familiar with Demy at all. Sounds interesting. I want to seek out some of his work, now.

Fisti said...

UGH, Demy is one of my all time favorites! One of the VERY best there ever was. Wendell, seek out his films NOW! Steven, I need to see this doc. Why is it not available through Netflix?!?!?!?!

:'-(

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-I'd start with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. I was fortunate to see it a couple of years ago at a screening as it's just this gorgeous musical where all of the dialogue is sung and it's a story about love. I would totally see it if you're into musicals.

@Fisti-Well, if you have any money available for the holidays. There's a box set of some of his best work available on Criterion in DVD/Blu-Ray which you can get at Barnes & Nobles for half-price in November. I think his films are available on Hulu.