Jacques Demy

Jacques Demy

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Lola (1961) Review


Extraordinary
In an time when gunmen walk on ceilings, when men morph into monsters before our eyes, when future governors of California are shorn of their human skin to expose the glistening steel and circuitry underneath, Jacques Demy's classic 1961 Lola is a breathtaking reminder of what magic in the movies used to mean. Lola is a work of romance, and the magic on view is all of the fairy tale variety. What's transformed in Lola isn't a cyborg or a lycanthrope, but rather life itself.

Or maybe I should say "lives." Set in the dreary French port of Nantes, Lola tells the story of the title character, a cabaret dancer and paid companion to the American sailors who prowl the streets and bars of the city on leave. She's a single mother, the child's father having abandoned her during pregnancy seven years before. What sustains her is the hopelessly naive belief that this man will return to her - return to her rich, no less - and that her drab, hardscrabble life will become the vision of happiness she never stops imagining.

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The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Review


Essential
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg stunned audiences at the Cannes Film Festival in 1964, landing the prestigious Palme d'Or. What the audience responded to was a triple whammy of film innovation that's just as powerful today as it was then: An explosion of color on film in league with the best of the Technicolor musicals, an entirely-sung script that's anchored by Michel Legrand's heart-busting theme, but most of all the breakout performance of Catherine Deneuve. She'd show off her range as an actress most powerfully three years later in Belle De Jour. But here's where she - along with the film musical itself - is the most gorgeous and captivating.

Deneuve is Genevieve, who somewhat sullenly assists her widowed mother (Anne Vernon) in running an umbrella shop in Cherbourg, a provincial town of cobblestone streets. Just 17 years old (though Deneuve was 20 when she took the role), she falls impetuously and deeply in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), a charming garage mechanic. His head cocks sweetly when he sings to her, and part of the magic of the film is in watching the two stand thisclose to one another and moon as they sing.

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Bay Of Angels Review


OK
Hardly one of Demy's (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) great works, this wisp of a film finds a mild-mannered banker (Claude Mann) becoming obsessed with roulette. (Why is it that all French gambling films revolve around roulette?) Along the way, he also becomes obsessed with an aloof platinum blonde (Jeanne Moreau) who also lives at the roulette wheel. She returns his attentions until revealing that it was all a ruse, brought on simply because she thought he brought her good luck.

A nearly identical story is done a bit more effectively in 1984's Tricheurs, but Jacques Demy's early film has some compelling moments, most notably a sudden and powerful ending that is wholly unexpected but is surprisingly satisfying. Bay of Angels ought to be a film school lesson in how to end a movie.

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The Young Girls of Rochefort Review


Good
Director Jacques Demy said that The Young Girls of Rochefort's plot wasn't of much consequence, and he's right. This is a film about music and color, an impressive follow-up to the similar The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which also starred Catherine Deneuve as a starry-eyed French girl with love in her heart. In Rochefort she has a twin sister (Françoise Dorléac, who died in a car accident at the age of 25, before Rochefort was ever released in the United States); together they're after a pair of eligible young men of Rochefort, at least when they aren't working on their professions -- one's a dancer, one's a pianist and composer. But really they're both singers, as this musical lurches through one musical dance number after another -- for a movie with no important plot, why must it run beyond two full hours? Ultimately it's a tepid storyline that makes Rochefort pale in the face of Cherbourg, which pretty much had it all. (And damn if these girls don't wear way too much makeup!)

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Lola Review


Extraordinary
In an time when gunmen walk on ceilings, when men morph into monsters before our eyes, when future governors of California are shorn of their human skin to expose the glistening steel and circuitry underneath, Jacques Demy's classic 1961 Lola is a breathtaking reminder of what magic in the movies used to mean. Lola is a work of romance, and the magic on view is all of the fairy tale variety. What's transformed in Lola isn't a cyborg or a lycanthrope, but rather life itself.

Or maybe I should say "lives." Set in the dreary French port of Nantes, Lola tells the story of the title character, a cabaret dancer and paid companion to the American sailors who prowl the streets and bars of the city on leave. She's a single mother, the child's father having abandoned her during pregnancy seven years before. What sustains her is the hopelessly naive belief that this man will return to her - return to her rich, no less - and that her drab, hardscrabble life will become the vision of happiness she never stops imagining.

Continue reading: Lola Review

Donkey Skin Review


OK
If you see just one film with a donkey that craps gold and jewels, see this one. Jacques Demy's bizarre fairy tale stars his favorite muse, Catherine Deneuve, in a story unlike anything you've ever seen: A king attempts to marry his own daughter (Deneuve), so she's whisked away in a donkey skin by her fairy godmother. Did I mention the blue people and the donkey that craps gold? Fine for kids.

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Jacques Demy

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