Les Demoiselles de Rochefort View large image

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Film Details

Directed by: Jacques Demy Agnes Varda

Produced: 1967

Countries & Regions: France

DVD Details

Certificate: PG

Studio: British Film Institute

Length: 126 mins

Format: DVD

Released: 28 July 2008

Cat No: BFIVD770

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Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Cast: Catherine Deneuve , Jacques Perrin , Michel Piccoli , Gene Kelly , George Chakiris , Danielle Darrieux , Françoise Dorléac , Henri Cremieux , Grover Dale , Jacques Riberolles

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After their award-winning success with ’The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, director Jacques Demy, composer Michel Legrand and star Catherine... Read More

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After their award-winning success with ’The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’, director Jacques Demy, composer Michel Legrand and star Catherine Deneuve re-teamed for this second Gallic take on the classic Hollywood musical. Denueve and her real-life sister Francoise Dorleac play a pair of music-teacher siblings looking for love in a pastel-coloured French coastal town. Dorleac is busy composing a symphony, while Deneuve has just broken up from her arrogant art dealer boyfriend, and together they are both preparing to perform at the local paegant. Meanwhile, a visiting American (Gene Kelly) discovers some music written by Dorleac and wonders how he can ever meet the composer, whilst a love-lorn sailor (Jacques Perrin) paints portaits of his dream girl, a young woman who looks surprisingly like Deneuve.

F ollowing the rapturous reception accorded to his pop opera The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in 1964, Jacques Demy continued in the same vein with Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, which encapsulated his passion for the Hollywood musical, while also revealing him to be every bit as cinematically subversive as Truffaut and Godard. Indeed, this candy-coloured confection could easily be considered the last great film of the nouvelle vague.

For all its complexities, the plot is almost an irrelevance. Danielle Darrieux owns a café on the square in the coastal town of Rochefort, where twin daughters Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac teach music and dance to local kids while dreaming of making it big in Paris and finding the ideal man. Deneuve has a crush on artist Jacques Perrin (whom she has never met), while Darrieux loves the father of her young son, Michel Piccoli, who runs a nearby music store and is friends with celebrated American composer Gene Kelly – who falls for Dorleac.

The various romantic contrivances provide a convenient dramatic structure. But Demy is more interested in the bustle of life outside Darrieux’s window that centres on the fair that brings likely lads George Chakiris and Grover Dale to town. Consequently, peripheral characters break into dance steps as well as the principals, and this sense of spontaneity spills over into the songs, which Demy and Michel Legrand composed in the manner of Rodgers and Hart to flow naturally from the dialogue, so that speaking and singing became interchangeable.

The influence of Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight and Minnelli’s An American in Paris is readily apparent, but this sly satire on Franco-American relations also shares a fondness for action on the edge of the frame with Jacques Tati’s Playtime. Far from being an outdated throwback, this is every bit as modern and audacious as 1967’s other major musical event, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

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