A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Young Girls of Rochefort (Jacques Demy, 1967)

I appreciate Jacques Demy's hommage to the Hollywood musical, but I think I would have to like the music of Michel Legrand more to really enjoy The Young Girls of Rochefort.  Demy's Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) has been known to seriously divide and damage friendships, though when I last saw it I rather enjoyed its cheeky sentimentality and bright colors. Rochefort takes a similar approach to Cherbourg, setting a musical romance in a French town and filling it with wall-to-wall Legrand songs, but by doubling down on the concept -- giving us multiple romances, extending the time from Cherbourg's 91 minutes to Rochefort's more than two hours, and bringing guest stars from American musicals -- it begins to try one's patience. Catherine Deneuve, who starred in Cherbourg, is joined by her sister, Françoise Dorléac, and the two of them have great charm, though Deneuve's delicately beautiful face is smothered under an enormous blond wig for much of the film. They are courted by Étienne (George Chakiris) and Bill (Grover Dale), who often seem to be doing dance movements borrowed from Jerome Robbins's choreography for West Side Story (Robbins and Robert Wise, 1961), in which Chakiris appeared. (Rochefort's choreographer is Norman Maen.) But Solange (Dorléac) winds up with an American composer, Andy Miller (Gene Kelly), while Delphine (Deneuve) keeps missing a connection with Maxence (Jacques Perrin), an artist who has painted a picture of his ideal woman, who looks exactly like Delphine. Their mother Yvonne (Danielle Darrieux), meanwhile, doesn't realize that her old flame (and the father of her young son), Simon Dame (Michel Piccoli), has recently moved to Rochefort. (She had turned him down because she didn't want to be known as Madame Dame. No, I'm not kidding.) And so it goes. What life the movie has is given it by Kelly's extended cameo: At 55, he's as buoyant as ever, though somewhat implausible as the 25-year-old Dorléac's love interest. He would have been better paired with Darrieux. It's a candy-box movie, but for my taste it's like someone got there first and ate the best pieces, leaving me the ones with coconut centers.

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