Combustible Celluloid
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With: Catherine Deneuve, George Chakiris, Françoise Dorléac, Jacques Perrin, Michel Piccoli, Jacques Riberolles, Grover Dale, Geneviève Thénier, Henri Crémieux, Pamela Hart, Leslie North, Patrick Jeantet, Gene Kelly, Danielle Darrieux, René Bazart
Written by: Jacques Demy
Directed by: Jacques Demy
MPAA Rating: G
Language: French with English subtitles
Running Time: 125
Date: 03/07/1967

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

With the world's love for big, expensive musicals still unwavering, it's a wonder why Jacques Demy's The Young Girls of Rochefort (1965) is still such an unknown curiosity. A follow-up to his smaller, sadder The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, it's a weird mix of reality and fantasy, American and French. Real-life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac (who sadly died just two years later at the age of 25) co-star as movie sisters, running a little snack bar and dreaming of falling in love and being swept away to Paris. Several men show up, and everyone falls in love all at the wrong time, causing much running around, dancing, and singing.

The movie is Easter-candy colored and wide in scope, and Michel Legrand's jazzy tunes are difficult to get out of your head. Even Gene Kelly shows up for a couple of sublime numbers, slightly older, but still graceful. It can be somewhat awkward following the songs and dancing and reading English subtitles at the same time, but once you get into the rhythm, this is a delightful movie. Michel Piccoli and Danielle Darrieux also appear. Demy's widow, filmmaker Agnes Varda, supervised the 1996 restoration and re-release of this unsung classic.

The Criterion Collection released a 2017 Blu-ray edition that beautifully shows off the movie's color and sounds. It includes a 2K digital restoration, a 1966 interview with director Demy and composer Legrand, a 2014 conversation between Demy biographer Jean-Pierre Berthomé and costume designer Jacqueline Moreau, a vintage making-of TV episode, and Agnès Varda's 67-minute documentary The Young Girls Turn 25 (1993). A trailer is also included, and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum -- who lists this film among his all-time favorites -- contributes the liner notes essay.

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