Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Young Girls of Rochefort

Written and directed by Jacques Demy, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort) is the story of two sisters who hope to go to the big city when a fair arrives in their port town as they hope to find men and a chance to succeed. The film is a musical set in a small port town in France where it plays into two sisters trying to make it and escape their dreary world. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Jacques Perrin, Michel Piccoli, Danielle Darrieux, George Chakaris, Grover Dale, and Gene Kelly. Les Demoiselles de Rochefort is a splendid and enchanting film from Jacques Demy.

Set in the actual port town of Rochefort during the course of an entire weekend, the film is about a fair that is happening in the town where twin sisters hope to find their ideal men during the fair while hoping to go to Paris to pursue their own dreams. It’s a film that is about trying to find love but also deal with lost love and other complications with everyone getting ready for this fair that was to showcase a lot of things to the locals in Rochefort. Jacques Demy’s screenplay follows a lot of characters and their own pursuit for love with the twin sisters Delphine (Catherine Deneuve) and Solange (Francoise Dorleac) as the leads in the story as they’re two women who can sing and dance as they both want to go to Paris. Upon meeting the carnies Etienne (George Chakaris) and Bill (Grover Dale), they find a chance to get out of Rochefort even though their ideal figures of who their soul mates are just happen to be in the city. At the same time, there’s other characters who cope with love such as Delphine and Solange’s mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux) over a fiancée she left behind while a music shop owner in Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli) has just arrived to the town lamenting over someone he had lost as he befriends Solange.

Simon’s friendship with Solange would prompt him to call upon an old friend who could help her with her dreams of writing music in an American named Andrew Miller (Gene Kelly) as the two would meet but are unaware of who they really are. Another storyline involves a sailor named Maxence (Jacques Perrin) who is also a poet and painter as he is looking for his own ideal form of love through a painting he made as the woman in the painting looks a lot like Delphine though he’s never met her. There’s a lot that goes on yet Demy always find a way for these multiple stories with multiple characters to not overwhelm the narrative as he would write the lyrics and dialogue that would reveal a lot for all of these other storylines to make sense.

Demy’s direction is just intoxicating to watch in every sense of the word as it is shot on location in Rochefort where it is made to look like a real small town that has a lot more to offer. Shot on a 2:35:1 aspect ratio, Demy uses the widescreen format to his advantage not just in the wide shot where he captures so much coverage in the town but also in the scope of the dancing. Aided by choreographer Norman Meen, the dancing in the film definitely has a sense of movement that Demy would follow not just in wide and medium shots but also know when to cut and get it from another angle or for a close-up. Demy would use some tracking shots to follow some of the dancing while setting up moments from one part of a street to another to follow one character’s narrative into another where it all connects. Demy would also create simple moments for the non-musical scenes as it is more about the characters and what they would do where it would either set up a musical moment or something that would become a plot-point for a character. Even as its climax is at the fair where it is about these twin sisters finally reaching their dream to go to Paris and make something of themselves but also leave behind the idea that they might’ve never found their ideal figures of love. Overall, Demy creates a wondrous and majestic film about twin sisters trying to find love in their small port hometown.

Cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet does amazing work with the film’s colorful and gorgeous cinematography as much of the film is shot in the daytime where it captures the fullness and beauty of the colors as well as the locations with very few scenes shot at night that includes a dinner at Yvonne’s café. Editor Jean Hamon does excellent work with the editing as it does have elements of style but knows how to play with the rhythm of the music and in the dancing as it’s one of the film’s highlights. Production designer Bernard Evein and set decorator Louis Seuret do brilliant work with the set design from the look of Yvonne’s café as well as some of the staging in the fair and the music shop owned by Simon.

Costume designers Jacqueline Moreau and Marie-Claude Fouquet do fantastic work with the costumes as it adds to the film’s gorgeous visuals with its vibrant colors and how it play into the personality of the characters in the film. The sound work of Jacques Maumont is superb as it is very straightforward while capturing the atmosphere of the fair and some of the other local events. The film’s music by Michel Legrand is incredible as it is a highlight of the film with its playful score and the songs written with Demy as it says so much about the characters and helping to drive the story.

The film’s phenomenal cast include some notable small roles from Genevieve Thenier as Yvonne’s café waitress Josette, Pamela Hart and Leslie North as a couple of performers that dump Etienne and Bill for sailors, Patrick Jeantet as Yvonne’s youngest son Booboo, Rene Bazart as Yvonne’s father, Henri Cremieux as an old friend of Yvonne’s father who visits the café, and Jacques Riberolles as Delphine’s art gallery boyfriend Guillaume who is quite full of himself as the two break-up early in the film. Michel Piccoli is superb as Simon as a music shop owner who is an old friend of Andy as well as a mentor of sorts for Solange with her music as he also laments over love that he’s lost many years ago. Danielle Darrieux is fantastic as Yvonne as a café owner who also laments over a lover she left behind while coping with the fact that her daughters are leaving home to pursue their dreams as she’s the only person in the film that actually sings while everyone lip-syncs other people’s voices. Jacques Perrin is excellent as the sailor Maxence as a man who is trying to finish his service in the military while pursuing his own dreams as an artist where he hopes to find the woman he painted but never met.

George Chakaris and Grover Dale are brilliant in their respective roles as Etienne and Bill as two smooth-talking but kind carnies who try to woo Delphine and Solange while helping out Yvonne and other locals in the world of love. Gene Kelly is marvelous as Andrew Miller as an American friend of Simon who visits the small town as he gets a glimpse and falls for Solange while discovering a piece she wrote that she dropped upon their first meeting. Finally, there’s the duo of Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac in remarkable performances in their respective roles as Delphine and Solange. Deneuve and Dorleac, who are sisters in real-life, both provide a great sense of comic timing and charm as well as displaying their own vulnerabilities as women trying to find their ideal mates and their pursuit to follow their dreams in the big city despite leaving the one place they call home.

Les Demoiselles de Rochefort is a spectacular film from Jacques Demy. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, top-notch choreography, and sumptuous music. It’s a film that doesn’t just bear many elements into what makes the musical a joy to watch but it’s also backed by a universal and engaging story about finding love in a small portside town in France. In the end, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort is a tremendous film from Jacques Demy.

Jacques Demy Films: (Lola (1961 film)) - Bay of Angels - The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - Model Shop - Donkey Skin - (The Pied Piper (1972 film)) - A Slightly Pregnant Man - (Lady Oscar) - (La Naissance du Jour) – Une chambre en ville - (Parking (1985 film)) - (Three Places for the 26th) - (Turning Table)

© thevoid99 2017


Big Screen Small Words said...

I really enjoyed this one. It's bright and cheerful; the atmosphere was different from Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This was also my first Gene Kelly movie and it doesn't disappoint!

thevoid99 said...

@Big Screen Small Words-It is certainly a cheerful and lovely film. It's what musicals should be. People are on and on about La La Land but I think this is the better film.

Anonymous said...

Nice review. I do love old musicals, there's a timelessness to them. And Catherine Deneuve is a stunningly beautiful woman and terrific actress.

thevoid99 said...

@vinnieh-This is a musical that is a must-see as it's such a joy to watch. Catherine Deneuve is still a beautiful woman.